The contents of this page have been produced by a team of physicians and experts of the Italian Institute of Telemedicine in compliance with the recommendations of the latest medical and scientific guidelines. Institutional communication not subject to authorisation pursuant to the Ministerial Decree 23/02/2006.
What is Dyslipidemia?
Dyslipidemia is a condition characterised by the presence of lipids in the blood in abnormal and dangerous amounts.
These are the most common forms of dyslipidemia:
- Hypercholesterolemia, i.e. an increase of the “bad” cholesterol “(LDL), which deposits on the arterial walls causing atherosclerosis starting from values >115 mg/dL
- Low values of HDL cholesterol or “good” cholesterol (<40 mg/dL in male or <50 mg/dL in female). The HDL cholesterol cleans the arteries from the excessive amounts of lipids and the higher it is, the better is our protection
- Hypertriglyceridemia, i.e. the increase of the triglycerides in the blood up to values ≥150 mg/dL
Dyslipidemia in figures
Dyslipidemia, and particularly hypercholesterolemia, affect up to 40-50% of Italians, with a higher occurrence in people who already had one or more cardiovascular disease or a stroke, or aged people.
In the United States the occurrence of the phaenomenon is even higher (55% of the population). Dyslipidemia is one of the main causes of atherosclerosis and of cardiovascular diseases: it is estimated that it is responsible for approximately 4 million death each year in the world.
The causes of dyslipidemia
Dyslipidemias can be ideally divided into two macro-categories depending on the causes of their occurrence. They can be:
- Primary dyslipidemias (on genetic or familial basis)
- Secondary dyslipidemias (acquired). Among the secondary ones we classify also those forms which, although starting from a family-related predisposition, mainly develop due to factors connected with the food or with unhealthy lifestyles . In this case we speak of multifactorial dyslipidemias.
Dyslipidemia can be diagnosed by means of the blood lipids measurement by collecting venous blood or by pricking the fingertips. The measurement is important since dyslipidemia causes disorders only in an advanced stage, for the complications of atherosclerosis and the arising of cardiovascular diseases such as, among the most typical ones, the myocardial infarction and the cerebral stroke.
How do we measure the blood lipids
- The assessment of cholesterolemia and triglyceridemia must be performed fasting for at least 12 hours
- The test can be performed on capillary blood, pricking the finger (home or pharmacy measurement), or on venous blood (at the Hospital, at the medical practice or at an analytical laboratory)
- The home self-monitoring of the blood lipids is performed on a blood drop obtained by pricking a fingertip or a finger: one blood drop is sufficient
- Self-monitoring is a painless test, fast (2 minutes are sufficient) and is reliable, since the results can overlap with the ones from the laboratory
How to treat dyslipidemia
Dyslipidemia can be treated maintaining suitable lifestyles and taking medications which can reduce the blood lipid levels. These arrangements provide an effective prevention of cardiovascular diseases and of hypertension.
Optimum lifestyle for dyslipidemics
- Eat lesser amounts of fat food, particularly the ones rich in saturated and trans fats (red meat, butter and full-fat cheese)
- Prefer the mono- and poly-unsaturated fats, rich in plant stanols and sterols (olive oil, seed oil, oily fish)
- First of all avoid the “junk food” (e.g. hamburgers, chips, etc.)
- Increase the amounts of fruits, vegetables and cereals, providing the body with rich amounts of soluble viscous fibres
- Drink only small amounts of alcohol (the famous daily glass of wine, for instance) which increases the good cholesterol (HDL)
- Loss of weight
- Regular aerobic exercise (walking, cycling, swimming, jogging) at least 30 minutes a day not less than 3-4 days a week: regular aerobic exercise lets the good cholesterol or HDL increase.
- In case of hypertriglyceridemia, it’s good to eat lots of fish, rich in omega-3, particularly effective on the triglycerides.