Hyperlipidemia is a big word for a very common condition. If you have hyperlipidemia, you have too many fats, like cholesterol and triglycerides, in your blood.\nOver time, this condition can lead to serious problems, including heart attack, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. The good news is that hyperlipidemia can be treated and, in some cases, prevented.\nWhat Are Lipids?\nLipids are types of fat in your body. While you need a certain amount for your body to work properly, a high level can lead to serious health problems. Hyperlipidemia is the medical term for a high level of lipids, including cholesterol and triglycerides, in your blood.\nCholesterol is a waxy substance that your body makes naturally and is also found in foods like meat, fish, poultry, egg yolks, and whole milk dairy products. Your body needs cholesterol to help make hormones and digest food.\nThere are two types of cholesterol, including:\n\nHigh-density lipoproteins (HDL), or “good” cholesterol. A higher level is better, because HDL helps take some of the “bad” cholesterol out of your body.\nLow-density lipoproteins (LDL), or “bad” cholesterol. A lower level is better, because LDL is linked to the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels.\n\nTriglycerides are a type of fat that your body makes naturally and that are also found in many foods. After you eat, your body converts any calories you don’t burn off into triglycerides and stores them to release later for energy. But if you don’t burn off more calories than you take in, you don’t release triglycerides. A lower level is better, because triglycerides are also linked to the buildup of plaque in your blood vessels.\nRELATED:\u00a0Cholesterol Basics: What You Need to Know\nWho Is at Risk of Hyperlipidemia?\nHyperlipidemia is very common in the United States and Europe. It can be genetic, meaning passed down in families, or caused by lifestyle factors.\nIn some cases, a defect in a gene can keep your body from removing “bad” cholesterol. This condition, known as familial hypercholesterolemia, is present from birth and may cause heart problems early in life.\nIn many cases, lifestyle factors can lead to hyperlipidemia. These include:\n\nEating a high-fat diet\nNot getting enough physical activity\nBeing overweight or obese\nHaving diabetes\n\nIs it dangerous?\nHyperlipidemia is linked to atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries, which happens when your blood vessels become hard or narrow because of plaque buildup. This can lead to serious, even life-threatening complications like:\n\nHeart attack, which happens when blood flow to your heart is blocked\nStroke, which happens when blood flow to your brain is blocked\nPeripheral artery disease, or PAD, which happens when blood flow to your arms or legs is blocked\n\nRELATED:\u00a0Everyday Ways to Help Your Heart\nHow Do I Know If I Have Hyperlipidemia?\nMany people with hyperlipidemia have no symptoms. Over time, you may have symptoms based on which blood vessels are blocked. Some symptoms can include:\n\nAngina, or chest pain that happens when your heart muscle can’t get enough oxygen\nHeart attack symptoms, including:\n\nChest pain\nPain or pressure in your shoulders, arms, neck, jaw, or back\nShortness of breath\n\n\nStroke symptoms, including:\n\nSudden, severe headache\nWeakness, numbness, tingling, or loss of movement on one side of your body\nTrouble speaking or thinking clearly\nPartial vision loss in one eye\n\n\nPAD, including:\n\nLeg discomfort\nLeg pain or cramping when walking, but that goes away at rest\nPain in the ball of your foot or toes at rest\nIn serious cases, foot ulcers, skin discoloration, infections, and gangrene\n\n\n\nHyperlipidemia Testing\nTo find out if you have hyperlipidemia, you need a blood test that shows your cholesterol and triglyceride levels. Before the test, you’ll be asked not to eat or drink for several hours. A nurse or technician will draw blood from your arm and send it to a lab for testing. You’ll usually have results in about one week, and they will fall into one of these ranges:\n\nNormal = total cholesterol less than 200 mg\/dL, triglycerides less than 150 mg\/dL\nBorderline high = total cholesterol 200 to 239 mg\/dL, triglycerides 150 to 199 mg\/dL\nHigh = total cholesterol more than 240 mg\/dL, triglycerides 200 to 499 mg\/dL\nVery high = triglycerides more than 500 mg\/dL\n\nMost people should have their lipids tested every four to six years beginning at age 20. Your doctor may tell you to have tests more often based on your risk factors and family history.\nHyperlipidemia Treatments and Prevention\nIf you have hyperlipidemia, your doctor will develop a treatment plan based on your specific needs. Healthy lifestyle choices play a big part in treating and preventing hyperlipidemia, including:\n\nEating a heart-healthy diet that is lower in fat and sugar and higher in fiber, including fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meats, fish, and low-fat dairy products\nGetting regular physical activity\nAvoiding or quitting smoking\n\nYour doctor may suggest talking with a registered dietitian \u2014 an expert on food and nutrition \u2014 who can help you make healthy food choices.\nWhile some people may be able to lower their cholesterol and triglycerides with lifestyle changes alone, many also need medicines to help. Make sure you understand exactly how to take your medicine, and what to do if you have side effects. You should never stop taking medicines for hyperlipidemia without talking to your doctor first.\nTo learn more about hyperlipidemia, visit the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute or call 1-855-UPMC-HVI (876-2484).