Updated:May 6,2013

Couple Cooking Heart-Healthy FoodManaging hyperlipidemia means controlling cholesterol, triglycerides.

Hyperlipidiemia is a mouthful, but it’s really just a fancy word for too many lipids – or fats – in the blood. 

That can cover many conditions, but for most people, it comes down to two better-known terms: high cholesterol and high triglycerides. Our bodies make and use a certain amount of cholesterol every day, but sometimes that system gets out of whack, either through genetics or diet. The “good cholesterol” – known as high-density lipoprotein, or HDL – helps coat the arteries like a protective oil, helping to prevent blockages. The “bad cholesterol,” low-density lipoprotein, or LDL – can lead to blockages if there’s too much in the body.

What’s the treatment?
If you’re diagnosed with hyperlipidemia, your treatment will vary based on which type of lipids that are too high, said Vincent Bufalino, chairman and chief executive of Midwest Heart Specialists in suburban Chicago and an American Heart Association volunteer. In any case, making healthy diet choices and increasing exercise are important first steps in lowering your high cholesterol. Avoid fatty foods and lower your overall daily calorie intake. Medication is also an effective tool in managing the condition when used in conjunction with healthy eating and regular exercise.

“The combination of diet and regular physical activity is important even if you’re on medication for high cholesterol,” Dr. Bufalino said. “It’s the most critical piece.”

Consulting a doctor is important, since each condition has it quirks. For people with high triglycerides, for example, alcohol can be particularly dangerous. But for those with high cholesterol, a daily glass of wine or other alcohol, along with healthy eating and exercise, may actually help, Dr. Bufalino said.

Once I have it, can I reverse it?
Hyperlipidemia can be reversible in many cases through healthy eating and regular exercise.

Here are some tips on how to manage your risk of high cholesterol.

  • Read food labels and choose foods with low cholesterol and saturated fat levels.  Dr. Bufalino recommends keeping daily cholesterol intake between 250 and 300 milligrams and make sure to limit saturated fat intake.
  • Limit your intake of red meat and eggs to reduce your saturate fat and cholesterol.  Choose skim milk, lowfat or fat-free dairy products. Limit fried food, and use healthy oils in cooking, such as vegetable oil.
  • Increase the amount of fiber you eat.  A diet high in fiber can help lower cholesterol levels by as much as 10 percent, Dr. Bufalino said.
  • Check your family history of high cholesterol.  Are you more prone to high cholesterol based on genetics? If so, take steps to minimize your risk through diet and exercise.
  • Lose extra weight. A weight loss of 10 percent can go a long way to reversing, or lowering your risk of hyperlipidemia.
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