To most the word “hyperlipidemia’ may sound like gibberish! Hyperlipidemia is the clinical term that describes high levels of fat within the blood. Let us break the word down, ‘hyper’ refers to the elevated level of a compounds. ‘Lipid’ refers to fat and ‘emia’ or ‘aemia’ refers to the blood.
What are the Clinical Characteristics of the disease?
Hyperlipidemia can often go unnoticed as the symptoms of the disorder are non-existant. As previously described, hyperlipidemia is described as high levels of lipids in the blood. ‘Lipid’ is a broad term for the word fat, this encompasses both triglycerides and cholesterol, clinical indicators for hyperlipidemia.
Cholesterol is produced in the liver from dietary fat. Cholesterol is present both in the liver and in the blood, however the value in blood is kept between narrow limits. Total blood cholesterol should be measured between 4 and 5mmol/L or less . Cholesterol is unable to travel in the blood on its own, instead it is carried by lipoproteins, of which there are two main varieties. LDL (Low density lipoproteins) is often referred to as ‘bad cholesterol’, this takes cholesterol from the liver and deposits it ectopically. This can lead to diseases such as atherosclerosis and cardiovascular disease. On the other hand, there are HDLs (High density lipoproteins), these are considered ‘good cholesterol’. Their role is to carry excess cholesterol from the diet and from the blood back to the liver to be destroyed. They are disease preventative .
Whereas triglycerides are the storage form of fat in the body. The test for triglycerides are taken after being fasted. This is because a high fat meal can greatly effect the results. A typical measurement of blood triglyceride concentration is 1.7mmol/L. Triglycerides aren’t only made from excess fats, but also excess carbohydrates which can be laid down as fat. We store this in our white fat tissue, made up of cells, adipocytes. Adipocytes are 'fat cells' that can stretch to x1000 their size in order to store fat. The dangers to this are increased risk of type 2 diabetes and cardiovascular disease .
There are no symptoms of Hyperlipidemia, high cholesterol. The best way to prevent it is to manage the risk factors in order to avoid onset of disease.
What are the Causes or Risk Factors?
There are two kinds of hyperlipidemia, these are primary and secondary, each come with their own risk factors.
Primary Hyperlipidemia is caused by genetics. There are certain ethnicities that are more at risk to the effects of hyperlipidemia, including, the Jewish, French Canadians and Afro-Caribbeans. On the other hand, scientists have isolated a gene loci that may be the cause of high cholesterol. The gene is thought to make one LDL receptor malfunction. Due to this, LDL accumalates and deposits in the blood causing total cholesterol and LDL specific cholesterol to rise. Primary Hyperlipidemia may also be caused by other diseases, such as:
- Kidney diseases
- Underactive thyroid
- Diabetes .
Secondary Hyperlipidemia is caused by a number of preventable lifestyle options. This includes:
- Obesity or being overweight.
- High saturated fat diet, rich in animal meats and products
- Excessive alcohol use
- Decreased activity and a sedentary lifestyle [3,4].
How dangerous is it?
Incredibly dangerous! Increasing lipids in your vessels (where it should not be) can lead to disorders such as atherosclerosis. The thickening of the arteries narrows the lumen of the vessel so that blood is unable to flow to vital organs and tissues. This can lead to the following diseases:
- Heart Attacks
- Amputation causes by lack of blood flow .
How can it be improved?
A simple change in diet and lifestyle can be a true miracle when attempting to change lipid rich blood.
The dietary changes should focus on lowering saturated fat levels, and fats derived from animal products. Someone with hyperlipidemia would benefit from a Vegetarian diet for a period of time or to reduce their intake of fatty meats. Opt for chicken, turkey, fish, or legumes as a protein source. Also avoid high saturated fat, and sugar snacks such as cakes, biscuits and confectionery. Moreover, eat a wide range of fruits and vegetables, alongside whole grain cereals, this will reduce cholesterol by increasing plant sterols. Plant sterols also act as inhibitors for the absorption of cholesterol .
Exercise is essential for anyone but is even more beneficial to those that have hyperlipidemia. Exercise has been shown to reduce LDL concentration and increase HDL cholesterol concentration. This can reset the metabolic lipid profile of the body. We advise exercising for 30 minutes, for a minimum of 5 days a week, but of course, more is beneficial. Please consider that you should start off slow! Contrary to the typical phrase, 'It's a sprint, not a marathon!’ .
The most beneficial supplements include the following:
- Omega 3, is found in fish oils, from mackerel, tuna and sardines. Omega 3 oils include EPA (eicosapentanoic acid) and DHA (docosahexaenoic acid). In many studies, EPA and DHA have been shown to reduce cholesterol levels. One study compared the effect of canola oil and omega 3 oil against hyperlipidemia caused by non-alcohol fatty liver disease. Out of 70 participants it was found that fish oil helped to significantly reduce ‘metabolic lipid abnormalities’ .
- Vitamin B3. Otherwise known as Niacin, Vitamin B3 has been shown to reduce LDL cholesterol by as much as 25%. This gave way to an increase in HDLs lipoproteins by 35% .
- Chromium. According to the European Food Standards Agency (EFSA) Chromium is responsible for the metabolism of fats. By doing so it can allow for reduced blood lipids, thus a decreased risk in atherosclerosis and other comorbidities .
- Garlic in supplement form has been shown to promote levels of HDL in the blood and decrease levels of LDLs . Making total cholesterol a much healthier number .
What can Green Tea do?
Green Tea is extracted from the Assam Tea plant, more commonly known as the Camellia Sinensis. Green is famed for its potent levels of polyphenols, ranging between 20 and 45%. Particularly its Catechins, which comprise of 60-80% of the polyphenol content. EGCG (epigallocatechin gallate) is the most common. One study took Oolong and Green Tea and administered it whilst testing cholesterol levels in the blood. They found that after just 18 days of an average intake, cholesterol levels returned to a healthy and normal concentration . Another study conducted on over 1,000 participants found that daily intake of green tea reduced LDL cholesterol levels by as much as 16.4%, and total cholesterol by 11.4% . The science behind this is that Green Tea polyphenols act as antioxidants. By doing so they prevent oxidation of the LDLs and thus reduce the risk of atherosclerosis. As a result of this LDL concentrations are decreased, with this comes a decline in your risk of hypertension, type 2 diabetes, liver disease, kidney disease, cardiovascular disease, strokes and heart attacks .
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