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What are Lipid Disorders?

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...

A risk factor is something that increases your chances of getting a disease or condition.

Although a person with specific risk factors is at increased risk, anyone can develop a lipid disorder. Having one or more of the risk factors listed below does not necessarily mean that you will get a lipid disorder. But if you do have any of these specific risk factors, you should talk with your doctor about what you can do to reduce your increased risk of developing a lipid disorder.

Risk factors for lipid disorders include the following:

Specific Lifestyle Factors

A diet high in saturated fat, transfat, and cholesterol—Eating food high in saturated fat, transfat, and cholesterol increases cholesterol levels. However, dietary cholesterol does not have as strong an effect on...

Lipid disorders usually do not cause symptoms.

In extreme cases, the following signs or symptoms may be found by history or physical exam:

  • Fatty deposits in the skin or tendons caused by very high levels of lipids in the blood
  • Pain, enlargement, or swelling (inflammation) of abdominal organs such as the liver, spleen, or pancreas due to extremely high levels of triglycerides in the blood
  • Changes in the blood vessels of the eye, caused by elevated lipids

Lipid disorders are diagnosed with blood tests that measure the level of cholesterol and triglyceride in the blood.

Blood Tests

Cholesterol levels are checked with a blood test. A small blood sample is taken from a vein in your arm. You may need to fast for several hours, usually overnight, before your blood is taken. The test measures levels of:

  • Total cholesterol
  • LDL (bad) cholesterol
  • HDL (good) cholesterol
  • Triglycerides

The readings are interpreted as follows:

Total Cholesterol



<200 mg/dL (5.2 mmol/L)


200-239 mg/dL (5.2-6.1 mmol/L)

Borderline high

240 mg/dL (6.2 mmol/L) and above


LDL Cholesterol



less than 100 mg/dL (2.6 mmol/L)


100-129 mg/dL (2.6-3.3...

There are several lifestyle modifications that can lower your risk of developing a lipid disorder. They are:

  • Eat a diet low in saturated and transfat and cholesterol.
  • Exercise regularly.
  • Lose weight if you are overweight.
  • Drink alcohol only in moderation.
  • Stop Smoking.

Eat a Diet Low in Saturated and TransFat and Cholesterol

A diet low in saturated and transfat and cholesterol and rich in whole grains, fruits, and vegetables will help lower cholesterol levels. Follow the meal plan recommended by your doctor, or ask for a referral to a registered dietitian who can design an eating plan for you.

General guidelines include:

  • Limit calories from saturated fat to fewer than 7% of your total calorie intake and cholesterol to less...

American Heart Association (AHA)


National Center
7272 Greenville Ave.
Dallas, TX 75231



Internet Address:

Description of Services Provided:

The American Heart Association provides educational materials about high cholesterol and other heart disease risk factors. This national voluntary health agency’s mission is to reduce disability and death from cardiovascular diseases and stroke.

American Family Physician


11400 Tomahawk Creek Pkwy
Leawood, KS 66211

Internet Address:

Description of Services Provided:

Provides informational sheets on health topics and disease management.

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood...

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