Cholesterol Imbalance (Dyslipidemia)

Cholesterol Imbalance, Dyslipidemia

Dyslipidemia is the medical term for an imbalance of cholesterol in the bloodstream, and is a major risk factor in developing cardiovascular disease.  Heart disease is the leading cause of death in Canada, where it accounts for one third of all deaths.

There are several types of cholesterol in your body—HDL is commonly called “good” cholesterol, and is vital to a person’s health.  LDL, or “bad” cholesterol, can accumulate on the walls of arteries, increasing the risk of cardiovascular events like heart attacks (myocardial infarctions), angina (chest pain), and stroke.  The most common form of dyslipidemia is an excess of LDL cholesterol.

A person’s lifestyle can affect their cholesterol levels—obesity, inactivity and poor diet increase the amount of harmful LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream, and smoking can lower beneficial HDL levels.  There are certain diseases that cause an increased risk of dyslipidemia, such as diabetes.  Diabetics are more likely to develop dyslipidemia,and are up to four times as likely to experience a heart attack or stroke.

Dyslipidemia, however, can affect otherwise healthy individuals—if you have a family history of the disease, you may be at risk.  A healthy diet and regular exercise have been shown to help, but medications called “statins” that lower bad cholesterol remain essential to the effective treatment of dyslipidemia. 

If untreated, those with dyslipidemia are more likely to suffer heart attacks, strokes, and other cardiovascular events.  Dyslipidemia can be fatal, and many of those affected may not experience any symptoms.  It is of the utmost importance, therefore, that dyslipidemia is studied closely, as innovative treatment strategies hold the key to effective management of this deadly condition.

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