Diet Plan For Hyperlipidemia

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Diet plan for hyperlipidemia consists mainly of vegetables, fruits, and whole grains. The carbohydrate content should be low; trans and saturated fats should be avoided; and meat intake should be limited to provide no more than 2 to 3 ounces per day. For the average individual following this type of diet, a loss in excess of 1.5 pounds per week is common.

Hyperlipidemia

Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) means your blood has too many lipids (fats) in it. These can add up and lead to blockages in your blood vessels. This is why high cholesterol can put you at risk for a stroke or heart attack. But you can make lifestyle changes like eating healthier and exercising to lower your cholesterol. Medicine can help too.

OVERVIEW

LDL, HDL and plaque inside an artery
Bad cholesterol (LDL) and plaque in an artery

What is hyperlipidemia?

Hyperlipidemia, also known as dyslipidemia or high cholesterol, means you have too many lipids (fats) in your blood. Your liver creates cholesterol to help you digest food and make things like hormones. But you also eat cholesterol in foods from the meat and dairy aisles. Since your liver can make as much cholesterol as you need, the cholesterol in foods you eat is extra.

Too much cholesterol (200 to 239 mg/dL is borderline high and 240 mg/dL is high) is not healthy because it can create roadblocks in your artery highways where blood travels around to your body. This damages your organs. Bad cholesterol (LDL) is the most dangerous type because it causes hardened cholesterol deposits (plaque) to collect inside of your blood vessels. This makes it harder for your blood to get through, which puts you at risk for a stroke or heart attack.

Think of cholesterol, a kind of fat, as traveling in lipoprotein cars through your blood.

  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is known as bad cholesterol because it can clog your arteries like a large truck that broke down and is blocking a traffic lane. (Borderline high number: 130 to 159 mg/dL. High: 160 to 189 mg/dL.) 
  • Very low density lipoprotein (VLDL) is also called bad because it carries triglycerides that add to artery plaque. This is another type of traffic blocker.
  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as good cholesterol because it brings cholesterol to your liver, which gets rid of it. This is like the tow truck that removes the broken down vehicles from the traffic lanes so vehicles can move. In this case, it’s clearing the way for your blood to get through your blood vessels. For your HDL, you don’t want to have a number lower than 40 mg/dL.

It’s important to know that providers consider other factors in addition to your cholesterol numbers when they make treatment decisions.

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Is hyperlipidemia the same as high cholesterol?

Yes, hyperlipidemia is another name for high cholesterol, and so is hypercholesterolemia.

What is dyslipidemia vs. hyperlipidemia?

They are mostly interchangeable terms for abnormalities in cholesterol. Your cholesterol can be “dysfunctional” (cholesterol particles that are very inflammatory or an abnormal balance between bad and good cholesterol levels) without being high. Both a high level of cholesterol and increased inflammation in “normal” cholesterol levels put you at increased risk for heart disease.

What are the risk factors for hyperlipidemia? 

Several things can put you at a higher risk of hyperlipidemia, including:

  • Having a family history of high cholesterol.
  • Having hypothyroidism.
  • Having obesity.
  • Not eating a nutritious diet.
  • Drinking too much alcohol.
  • Having diabetes.
  • Smoking.

How common is hyperlipidemia?

Hyperlipidemia is very common. Ninety-three million American adults (age 20 and older) have a total cholesterol count above the recommended limit of 200 mg/dL.

How serious is hyperlipidemia?

Hyperlipidemia can be very serious if it’s not controlled. As long as high cholesterol is untreated, you’re letting plaque accumulate inside your blood vessels. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke because your blood has a hard time getting through your blood vessels. This deprives your brain and heart of the nutrients and oxygen they need to function. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death in Americans.

How does hyperlipidemia affect my body?

Hyperlipidemia (high cholesterol) that’s not treated can allow plaque to collect inside your body’s blood vessels (atherosclerosis). This can bring on hyperlipidemia complications that include:

  • Heart attack.
  • Stroke.
  • Coronary heart disease.
  • Carotid artery disease.
  • Sudden cardiac arrest.
  • Peripheral artery disease.
  • Microvascular disease.

Prevention and Treatment of High Cholesterol (Hyperlipidemia)

How to manage cholesterol video
How to Manage High Cholesterol

Know your numbers. And what to do about them.

When it comes to cholesterol, it’s important to know your numbers. Hyperlipidemia means your blood has too many lipids (or fats), such as cholesterol and triglycerides. One type of hyperlipidemia, hypercholesterolemia, means you have too much non-HDL cholesterol and LDL (bad) cholesterol in your blood. This condition increases fatty deposits in arteries and the risk of blockages.

Another way your cholesterol numbers can be out of balance is when your HDL (good) cholesterol level is too low. With less HDL to remove cholesterol from your arteries, your risk of atherosclerotic plaque and blockages increases.

If you’re diagnosed with hyperlipidemia, your overall health and other risks such as smoking or high blood pressure will help guide treatment. These factors can combine with high LDL cholesterol or low HDL cholesterol levels to affect your cardiovascular health. Your doctor may use the ASCVD Risk Calculator to assess your risk of a coronary event in the next 10 years.

The good news is, high cholesterol can be lowered, reducing risk of heart disease and stroke. If you’re 20 years or older, have your cholesterol tested and work with your doctor to adjust your cholesterol levels as needed.

Often, changing behaviors can help bring your numbers into line. If lifestyle changes alone don’t improve your cholesterol levels, medication may be prescribed. Lifestyle changes include:

Eating a heart-healthy diet

From a dietary standpoint, the best way to lower your cholesterol is reduce your intake of saturated fat and trans fat. The American Heart Association recommends limiting saturated fat to less than 6% of daily calories and minimizing the amount of trans fat you eat.

Reducing these fats means limiting your intake of red meat and dairy products made with whole milk. Choose skim milk, low-fat or fat-free dairy products instead. It also means limiting fried food and cooking with healthy oils, such as vegetable oil.

A heart-healthy diet emphasizes fruits, vegetables, whole grains, poultry, fish, nuts and nontropical vegetable oils, while limiting red and processed meats, sodium and sugar-sweetened foods and beverages.

Many diets fit this general description. For example, the DASH (Dietary Approaches to Stop Hypertension) eating plan promoted by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute as well as diets suggested by the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the American Heart Association are heart-healthy approaches. Such diets can be adapted based on your cultural and food preferences.

To be smarter about what you eat, pay more attention to food labels. As a starting point:

  • Know your fats. Knowing which fats raise LDL cholesterol and which ones don’t is key to lowering your risk of heart disease.
  • Cook for lower cholesterol. A heart-healthy eating plan can help you manage your blood cholesterol level.

Becoming more physically active

A sedentary lifestyle lowers HDL cholesterol. Less HDL means there’s less good cholesterol to remove bad cholesterol from your arteries.

Physical activity is important. At least 150 minutes of moderate-intensity aerobic exercise a week is enough to lower both cholesterol and high blood pressure. And you have lots of options: brisk walking, swimming, bicycling or even yard work can fit the bill.

Quitting smoking

Smoking and vaping lowers HDL cholesterol.

Worse still, when a person with unhealthy cholesterol levels also smokes, risk of coronary heart disease increases more than it otherwise would. Smoking also compounds the risk from other risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and diabetes.

By quitting, smokers can lower their LDL cholesterol and increase their HDL cholesterol levels. It can also help protect their arteries. Nonsmokers should avoid exposure to secondhand smoke.

Losing weight

Being overweight or obese tends to raise bad cholesterol and lower good cholesterol. But a weight loss of as little as 5% to 10% can help improve cholesterol numbers.

Thoughtful Talks with My Health Care Professional: My Cholesterol Treatment Plan

Your health care professional can help you reach your health goals, including keeping your cholesterol at healthy levels.

Making decisions with your health care team is the best way to create a treatment plan you’ll be more likely to stick to. If you don’t understand something, ask for further clarification.

Lifestyle changes

Lifestyle changes are often key to managing hyperlipidemia at home. Even if your hyperlipidemia is inherited (familial combined hyperlipidemia), lifestyle changes are still an essential part of treatment.

These changes alone may be enough to reduce your risk of complications like heart disease and stroke.

If you’re already taking medications to manage hyperlipidemia, lifestyle changes can improve their cholesterol-lowering effects.

Eat a heart healthy diet

Making changes to your diet can lower your LDL cholesterol levels and increase your HDL cholesterol levels. Here are a few changes you can make:

  • Choose healthier fats. Avoid saturated fats that are found primarily in red meat, bacon, sausage, and full-fat dairy products. Choose leaner proteins like chicken, turkey, and fish when possible. Use monounsaturated fats like olive, avocado, and canola oil for cooking.
  • Cut out the trans fats. Trans fats are found in fried food and processed foods, like cookies, crackers, and other snacks. Check the ingredients on product labels. Skip any product that lists “partially hydrogenated oil.”
  • Eat more omega-3s. Omega-3 fatty acids have many heart benefits. You can find them in some types of fish, including salmon, mackerel, and herring. They can also be found in some nuts and seeds, like walnuts and flaxseeds.
  • Increase your fiber intake. All fiber is heart healthy, but soluble fiber, which is found in oats, bran, fruits, beans, and vegetables, can lower your LDL cholesterol levels.
  • Learn heart healthy recipes. Check out the American Heart Association’s recipe page for tips on delicious meals, snacks, and desserts that won’t raise your cholesterol.
  • Eat more fruits and veggies. They’re high in fiber and vitamins and low in saturated fat.

Maintain a healthy-for-you weight

If you have high body weight or obesity, losing weight may help lower your total cholesterol levels.

Losing weight starts with figuring out how many calories you’re taking in and how many you’re burning. For a typical adult, it takes cutting 3,500 calories from your diet to lose about a pound.

You don’t have to start this process alone, though. You can work with a doctor or registered dietitian to create an eating plan that works for you, along with increasing physical activity so you’re burning more calories than you’re eating.

Get active, if you can

Physical activity is important for overall health, weight loss, and cholesterol levels. When you aren’t getting enough physical activity, your HDL cholesterol levels go down. This means there isn’t enough “good” cholesterol to carry the “bad” cholesterol away from your arteries.

You only need 40 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise 3 or 4 times a week to lower your total cholesterol levels. The goal should be 150 minutes of total exercise each week.

This can look like anything you enjoy doing, but some of the following can help you add exercise to your daily routine:

  • Try biking to work.
  • Take brisk walks with your dog.
  • Swim laps at the local pool.
  • Join a gym (and use it!).
  • Take the stairs instead of the elevator.
  • If you use public transportation, get off a stop or two sooner.

Seek strategies to stop smoking

Smoking lowers your “good” cholesterol levels and raises your triglycerides. Even if you haven’t been diagnosed with hyperlipidemia, smoking can increase your risk of heart disease.

Talk with your doctor about quitting, or try the nicotine patch. Nicotine patches are available at the pharmacy without a prescription.

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