Lipids are high-energy, fat-like materials in the tissues and bloodstream. When lipids combine with protein, they form lipoproteins like low-density lipoprotein and high-density lipoprotein. These lipoproteins, along with the lipid triglyceride, play important roles in cell building and body function.
When levels of these substances are too high or too low, patients are diagnosed with a lipid disorder. UK Endocrinology is here to help.
Lipid disorder diagnoses are based on the levels of these substances in the blood.
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol is often referred to as “bad” cholesterol. High levels of LDL can cause fat to build and harden to form plaque in the arteries, a type of cardiovascular disease known as atherosclerosis. Atherosclerosis can slow or block blood flow in the arteries, which contributes to conditions like high blood pressure, peripheral artery disease, heart attack and stroke.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol, referred to as “good” cholesterol, plays an important role by helping the body remove some of the LDL. Healthy HDL levels may reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke, while low HDL can increase the risk of heart disease.
- Triglycerides are lipids created from the calories your body doesn’t use immediately. The extra calories are converted into triglycerides and stored in fat cells until your body needs to use them for energy. High triglyceride levels increase your heart disease risk.
Because abnormal cholesterol and triglycerides levels typically don’t cause symptoms, they’re usually discovered during a blood test called a lipid profile. However, in rare cases, high cholesterol can cause gray rings around the corneas or fatty bumps on the skin. High triglycerides, in rare cases, can cause pancreas inflammation that may result in abdominal pain.
Though some lipid disorders are genetic and cannot be prevented, most lipid disorders are the result of lifestyle choices. Many people can help prevent lipid disorders by not smoking, losing weight if they are overweight, getting more daily exercise and adopting a heart-healthy diet.
- Lifestyle changes. Adjusting to a heart-healthy diet, incorporating more exercise, losing weight and quitting smoking can sometimes improve abnormal lipid levels.
- Medications. Statins are the most common medication, and they work by lowering cholesterol levels, which reduces the risk of stroke or heart attack. Other medications that can be used include PCSK9 inhibitors, selective cholesterol absorption inhibitors and fibrates, among many others.
- Apheresis. Patients who have drug-resistant hypercholesterolemia (high cholesterol) may benefit from apheresis — a process that filters the blood to remove LDL cholesterol before the blood is returned to the patient’s body.
The endocrinologists at UK HealthCare provide a valuable resource to the community by offering advanced diagnostics and therapies for adults and children with lipid disorders. Our endocrinologists are available to offer lipid management guidance for any patient with a lipid disorder, including:
- patients who have conditions that increase the risk of developing lipid disorders, such as diabetes
- patients with a family history of early heart disease
- patients who don’t respond to cholesterol medications or who experience side effects that make taking cholesterol medications difficult Regardless of the cause of the patient’s lipid disorder, our endocrinology team is available to provide education about lipid disorders and guidance for heart disease and stroke prevention, as well as counseling for tobacco cessation, weight management and nutrition.