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Lipid Disorders Overview

Written by FoundHealth, ColleenO.

Lipid disorders are abnormalities in the amount of fatty substances, called lipids, in the blood. Cholesterol and triglycerides are two types of lipids measured. These lipids are involved in many body processes.

High cholesterol levels are associated with an increased risk of coronary heart disease , hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), and stroke . A total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dL* (5.2 mmol/L) is desirable, 200-239 mg/dL (5.2-6.1 mmol/L) is borderline high, and over 239 mg/dL (6.1 mmol/L) is high.

*mg/dL = milligrams per deciliter blood (mmol/L = millimoles per liter blood)

Plaque Due to Build-up of Lipids in an Artery
Plaque Due to Build-up of Lipids in an Artery
© 2009 Nucleus Medical Media, Inc.

There are two main types of cholesterol:

  • High-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol—This is often referred to as the "good" cholesterol, which helps protect against heart disease. It is believed to carry cholesterol to the liver and away from arteries. Levels of 60 mg/dL (1.6 mmol/L) or higher are beneficial in lowering heart-disease risk.
  • Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol—This is often referred to as the "bad" cholesterol, which increases the risk of heart disease. High levels allow plaque to build up in your arteries. Levels less than 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L) are considered optimal.

Triglycerides also contribute to heart disease in some people. Levels above 199 mg/dL (2.2 mmol/L) are considered high and may require treatment.

Factors such as heredity, certain drugs and diets high in saturated fat, can lead to unhealthy elevations in lipid levels. Large amounts of carbohydrates or alcohol may also lead to high lipid levels.

According to the American Heart Association, 106.7 million Americans over the age of 20 have a total cholesterol of 200 mg/dL (5.2 mmol/L) or higher. Certain diseases such as diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism, or the nephotic syndrome can be associated with elevated lipid levels.

What are the risk factors for lipid disorders?

What are the symptoms of lipid disorders?

How are lipid disorders diagnosed?

What are the treatments for lipid disorders?

Are there screening tests for lipid disorders?

How can I reduce my risk of lipid disorders?

What questions should I ask my doctor?

Where can I get more information about lipid disorders?



American Heart Association website. Available at: .

National Center for Health Statistics website. Available at: .

National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute website. Available at: .

Pejic RA, Lee DT. Hypertriglyceridemia. JABFM.2006;19:310-316.

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