According to WHO, total deaths resulting from cardiovascular disease yearly across the globe is about 17.3 million. Now, I bet your eyeballs popped at that staggering digits! There is always been huffs and puffs about this worrying health issue but how much do we care for our little heart that works so hard to keep the blood pumping? I am sure after looking at that number we would all want to know a tad bit more on how to keep the heart running smoothly so why not delve into some facts about dyslipidaemia, which is one of the leading risk factors of heart disease around the world.
What is Dyslipidaemia?
Dyslipidaemia indicates abnormal blood level of lipids (fats) or lipoproteins (carrier of cholesterol/fats in our blood). Elevated levels of cholesterol and triglyceride (hyperlipidaemia), increased levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and decreased levels of high-density lipoprotein (HDL) are the most common types of dyslipidaemia.
It is very important for people at risk of developing cardiovascular disease to get their lipid profile managed. A blood test will be the easiest way to diagnose dyslipidaemia. There are two types of dyslipidaemia, namely the primary and secondary type.
Primary dyslipidaemia is also sometimes referred to as familial hypercholesterolaemia. As the name suggests, this is an inherited condition that affects 1 in 500 people. Patients with increased LDL level, tendon xanthomata or a strong family history of cardiovascular events must be taken into consideration for the diagnosis of primary dyslipidaemia. It is recommended that people with genetic predisposition for this condition to be reviewed regularly (every 2 years usually) for signs of development of cardiovascular disease.
Secondary dyslipidaemia is when abnormal lipid levels are caused by other conditions such as hypothyroidism, cholestasis, type 2 diabetes mellitus, obesity, renal impairment, smoking, alcohol use and a few more. These conditions tamper the normal levels of LDL, HDL and triglycerides in our body. If these conditions are present, they must be treated and in the cases where secondary causes have been excluded, diagnosis for primary dyslipidaemia is done.
What is Cholesterol?
I am sure everyone would have a bit of jolt when they hear the word cholesterol. But is it really a bad thing? The answer would be, no! Cholesterol is a white, insoluble waxy substance that is carried around our body by lipoproteins in the blood. Cholesterol is mainly made up in the liver in our body and it can also be obtained from food. Our body needs cholesterol for many purposes such as making hormones, metabolism, and producing bile acids for fats digestion. So, it is proven that our body indeed needs cholesterol to function normally.
However, abnormally high cholesterol levels circulating within LDL can block the arteries. This narrows down the arteries and impairs the blood flow leading to heart attack or stroke if left untreated. LDL is usually labeled as the ‘bad cholesterol’ as it involves in blocking the arteries while HDL often termed the ‘good cholesterol’ because it prevents the cholesterol from building up in the arteries by carrying cholesterol away from blood stream. Total cholesterol reading obtained from blood tests would be inclusive of LDL and HDL levels in blood.
What Causes Dyslipidaemia?
There are modifiable and non-modifiable factors that contribute to dyslipidaemia. Following are the modifiable factors:
- Diet: Eating food rich in saturated fats and trans fats increase blood cholesterol level. Foods rich in fats and kilojoules on the other hand elevate triglyceride level in our blood.
- Weight: Being overweight is a risk factor for heart disease. Reduction in weight can help reducing LDL, triglyceride and increases HDL.
- Physical activity: Sedentary lifestyle can lead to increased risk of heart disease. Regular exercises can lower LDL level and raise the HDL level, which collectively help reducing the risk of cardiovascular disease.
- Smoking: Increases triglyceride levels in blood.
Following are the non-modifiable factors:
- Age: Cholesterol level tends to increase as we age.
- Gender: Women tend to have lower level of cholesterol before menopause but LDL level can hike up post-menopausal.
- Family History: Genes have a role in determining the level of cholesterol in your body. So, if you have a family history of dyslipidaemia, it is a good idea to talk to your doctor and go for regular check ups to ensure the levels are at healthy range.
Healthy lipid levels are not magic and achievable given that appropriate measures are taken. If you find out that your lipid profile is not looking as good, talk to your doctor about it. Make some lifestyle changes such as having healthy diet, indulging in regular exercises, opting for smoking cessation and managing your weight. Lifestyle changes alone might not be sufficient for some people and they might be prescribed medications to control their blood cholesterol level. One way or the other, dyslipidaemia can be managed or even prevented if healthy way of living is adapted. Keep your lipid levels on check and you can keep your heart pumping healthy!
Normal Lipid Levels Reference from World Heart Federation:
European recommendations suggest the following targets:
American recommendations suggest the following targets:
So if you wish to find out whether you have this disease, do make use of our health screening packages.
World Heart Federation
by Thanusha Ganesan
Final year pharmacy student. Highly curious and immensely enthusiastic. I strongly believe that to be happy is to indulge in the spirit of giving. View all articles by Thanusha Ganesan.