Dyslipidemia is a collective name for a wide range of disorders in the fat metabolism. This is visible in a blood screening as increased values of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and a reduced HDL cholesterol (called lipids). A high cholesterol level increases the risk of arteriosclerosis (hardening of the arteries).
The risk of cardiovascular diseases increases as the cholesterol level increases. Over the past 20 years there have been many discussions about the HDL cholesterol level (the ‘good’ cholesterol) that must be increased, and the LDL cholesterol level (the ‘bad’ cholesterol) that should not be too high. Nowadays, we are of the opinion that we have to look at the total cholesterol reading and that the values of the other fat fractions mostly serve to strengthen our assessment of the meaning of the total cholesterol value.
CHOLESTEROL AND DIET
We are not exactly sure why some people, at some point, develop an increased cholesterol. The nutrition during our childhood certainly plays a role, but a natural predisposition is probably just as important. When an increased cholesterol has been established, a strict reduced-fat diet will only have a modest contribution to the reduction of the value that was found. This does not mean, of course, that the diet is no longer essential: fat delivers many calories, and many calories lead to obesity.
Since the past 25 years, the treatment of an increased cholesterol is based on the so-called statins, the inhibitors of the forming of cholesterol in the liver. A choice for or against a certain statin can be based on the price, on possible adverse effects, the chance of a reaction with other medication, and the way it is processed in the body. In addition to statins, other types of medications are available but their benefits are much less clear.
Over the past years, the adverse effects have been a major focal point. Even though adverse effects can occur during the use of statins, they are quite rare. The most common adverse effect is muscle fatigue, which happens more often with some statins, and which is rarely a reason to stop the treatment. Other adverse effects are very rare. In any case, it is important to make the right choice through an approach which is based on the individual.