Lipid Disorders (High Cholesterol)

         Basic Facts

  • Lipid disorders are problems with the various forms of fat that are carried in the bloodstream. They include low-density lipoproteins (LDL), high-density lipoproteins (HDL) and triglycerides.
  • Lipid disorders contribute to atherosclerosis, the buildup of cholesterol and fat (plaque) on the artery walls, making it difficult for enough blood to flow through the arteries. 
  • Cholesterol screenings look at the fats in blood and help identify those at risk of heart disease. 
  • Abnormal lipid levels in the blood can be caused by genetic factors, lifestyle factors, and/or other medical conditions.
Lipid is the scientific term for fats in the blood. The two main types of lipids that affect heart disease are fatty acids and cholesterol. 

As people age, their coronary arteries can develop atherosclerosis. Coronary heart disease is diagnosed when the accumulation of plaque in a coronary artery grows large enough to obstruct blood flow to the heart.

Lipids do not dissolve in water. For cholesterol and fatty acids to be carried in the blood and used in cells, the body must use a kind of protein called apoproteins to transport the lipids through the blood and into the cells. These protein-bound fats are called lipoproteins, and when physicians speak of lipid disorders, they generally refer to problems with the amounts of these lipoproteins in the blood.

Each lipoprotein contains cholesterol, cholesterol-esters, triglycerides, phospholipids, vitamins, and apoproteins. Lipoproteins are grouped into different classes based on their density, or how tightly packed together these different substances are. The lipoprotein classes include:
  • High density lipoproteins (HDL) - Called the good cholesterol, HDL picks up excess cholesterol in the blood and the body and carries it back to the liver, where it is broken down and removed from the body.
  • Low density lipoproteins (LDL) - Called the bad cholesterol, LDL carries cholesterol and deposits it in body tissues to be used for cell repair or for energy high levels of LDL.
  • Very low density lipoproteins (VLDL) - Made up mostly of a core of triglycerides, with small amounts of proteins and cholesterol, VLDL particles circulate in the blood. The triglycerides are absorbed by cells for energy, leaving the protein and cholesterol remnants.
Lipid disorders include:
  • Primary elevated cholesterol (LDL is higher than the desired range),
  • Dyslipidemic syndrome (also called syndrome x, a group of metabolic risk factors that significantly increases the risk of developing CHD),
  • Primary elevated triglycerides (triglyceride level higher than normal),
  • Primary low-HDL syndromes (LDL is lower than the desired range),
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia, (a genetic disorder that increases total and LDL cholesterol), and
  • Familial hypertriglyceridemia or inherited high triglycerides.

Lipid Disorders FAQ