Recent research by Duke University reports that a prolonged diagnosis of hyperlipidemia in young adulthood does raise the risk of developing CHD, Coronary Heart Disease, in the future.

It is widely known that hyperlipidemia is a term that encompasses many different disorders. Its implications can be a direct result of many factors including certain genetic disorders. What it means to have hyperlipidemia is that one might experience high levels of fats circulating in the bloodstream including fats, cholesterol, and triglycerides. When these fats (lipids) enter artery walls, they can, and most often do, increase a person’s risk of developing atherosclerosis, or the hardening of the arteries). That increase can lead to conditions like strokes, heart attacks, and perhaps the need to amputate a limb if necessary. Risk factors for early adults with hyperlipidemia increase with other comorbidities like diabetes, history of smoking, high blood pressure and renal insufficiency.

Hyperlipidemia is a chronic condition that requires ongoing medications, such as statins or fenofibrates, to control blood lipid levels. It is most often found in people living in the United States and Europe due to the prevalence of those who follow a high-fat diet.

The symptoms of hyperlipidemia include:

  • Elevated blood lipid levels upon testing that have no known cause
  • Symptoms that develop following a diagnosis of atherosclerosis
  • Angina and heart attacks caused by narrow heart arteries
  • Strokes
  • Pain with walking and or a diagnosis of gangrene

It should be noted that hyperlipidemia in itself doesn’t cause symptoms, it can increase the risk of developing cardiovascular disease, including diseases associated with the blood vessels that supply the heart (coronary artery disease), the brain (cerebrovascular disease), and the limbs (peripheral vascular disease). The implications of an early adulthood diagnosis drastically increase the risk of developing more serious comorbidities that can be detrimental to one’s health over the long term.

Other factors increase the risks even more, like gender, age, family history of coronary disease at a young age in a parents or a sibling, particularly a young (younger than 55 years of age) sibling, cigarette smoking, hypertension (elevated blood pressure), kidney disease, and diabetes mellitus type I or II, and other varied conditions.

On top of treating the condition after diagnosis, health care providers spend a considerable amount of time and effort focusing on strong and proven preventative medicine. Diagnosis and management at the onset of the condition and ongoing after a diagnosis have been shown to prevent cardiovascular disease (CVD). Over recent decades, their ongoing treatment of patients with hyperlipidemia has shown a direct correlation between high lipid concentrations and the risk of CVD, the leading cause of death in the United States.

One landmark study determined that the proper therapeutic interventions to lower elevated cholesterol levels do result in reduced risk factors for cardiovascular morbidity or mortality for those diagnosed with hyperlipidemia, thus furthering the idea that one does indeed impact the other. For those reasons, medical practitioners have shifted their focus to prevention overall.

By Joaquin N Diego, MD, FCCP, FACC