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A cardiologist holds a stethoscope to check her patient's heart rate and rhythm.


Dyslipidemia refers to unhealthy levels of one or more kinds of lipid in your blood. There are three kinds of lipids: high-density lipoprotein (HDL), low-density lipoprotein (LDL), and triglycerides. Someone experiencing dyslipidemia usually has higher LDL or triglyceride levels or lower HDL levels. 

LDL cholesterol—often referred to as “bad” cholesterol—can build up and form plaque in the walls of arteries. Too much plaque buildup can cause a heart attack. HDL cholesterol breaks down LDL cholesterol, making it known as “good” cholesterol. 

How does the body get cholesterol?

The liver uses stored fats, sugars, and proteins to make about 80% of the cholesterol the body needs in order to make hormones, help metabolism to work correctly, and produce vitamin D. The other 20% of cholesterol needed comes from food eaten, so eat heart-healthy foods like fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. 

Symptoms of dyslipidemia

Much like hypertension, high cholesterol doesn’t have obvious symptoms. However, dyslipidemia can lead to serious heart conditions, like coronary artery disease. High cholesterol is discovered through routine blood work, which you can begin at age 20.

Classifications of dyslipidemia

  • Primary: caused by genetic factors
    • Familial combined hyperlipidemia: develops in teenagers and young adults
    • Familial hyperapobetalipoproteinemia: a mutation in a group of LDL lipoproteins called apolipoproteins.
    • Familial hypertriglyceridemia: leads to high triglyceride levels.
    • Homozygous familial: a mutation in LDL receptors
  • Secondary: caused by lifestyle factors or other medical conditions

Causes of dyslipidemia

  • Lifestyle behaviors
    • Smoking
    • Sedentary lifestyle
    • Consuming foods high in saturated and trans fats
  • Other medical conditions

Risk factors for dyslipidemia

  • Obesity
  • Sedentary lifestyle
  • Lack of physical activity
  • Alcohol and/or tobacco use
  • Use of illegal or illicit drugs
  • Sexually transmitted infections
  • Type 2 diabetes
  • Hypothyroidism
  • Chronic kidney or liver conditions
  • Digestive conditions
  • Aging
  • Family history
  • Female sex

Tips for preventing and treating dyslipidemia

  • Maintain a healthy weight
  • Follow a heart-healthy diet
  • Exercise regularly
  • Avoid smoking

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