What Is Dyslipidemia?
Dyslipidemia, sometimes also referred to as hyperlipidemia, is characterized by an elevation of plasma cholesterol, triglycerides (TGs), or both, or a low high-density lipoprotein (HDL) level – and is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease (CVD).
The most common type of dyslipidemia is characterized by high LDL (also called “bad cholesterol”) levels, which is sometimes genetically inherited but can also be greatly impacted by diet. Most frequently, it is a consequence of unhealthy eating habits and other lifestyle factors. Low levels of HDL (the “good cholesterol“) along with high levels of triglycerides have similar causes, namely genetics, poor diet, and lack of exercise.
The underlying issue resulting in dyslipidemia is abnormal lipid metabolism:
- Lipid metabolism is essential for survival, and lipids are involved in many critical functions such as energy storage, creating cellular structures, production of hormones & steroids, supporting brain function, and promoting the absorption of fat-soluble vitamins A, D, E and K.
- Lipid absorption occurs when fats are consumed from the diet, followed by breakdown in the liver and in adipose tissue. Both of these processes are regulated by changes in glucose, insulin and glucagon hormones.
The Conventional Approach To Dyslipidemia
A third of the American population suffers from elevated cholesterol levels beyond what’s considered a “healthy” range and are prescribed statins and other medications to adjust cholesterol levels.
Yet new studies have revealed that cholesterol numbers are not the most accurate indicators of heart disease and cardiovascular risk. There are many people who die of heart attacks every day who have cholesterol levels in the “normal range”. The conventional approach primarily seeks to reduce the LDL cholesterol and triglycerides with medications – without considering that these numbers are just a sign of some other underlying dysfunction.
In addition, taking statins can have harmful effects on an already inflamed body – including harming your liver and damaging your muscles. Very rarely, statins can cause life-threatening rhabdomyolysis – resulting in severe muscle pain, liver damage, and kidney failure.
The Functional Medicine Approach To Dyslipidemia
What we’ve realized is that high cholesterol typically acts as a “bio-marker” – and just by “artificially” changing those levels in isolation, you do nothing to address the underlying issues.
In fact, it’s now recognized that cholesterol levels that are too low is dangerous because cholesterol is necessary to build important hormones like testosterone and neurotransmitters, and it is important for healthy brain function. .
That’s why at CMass Health and Wellness, MD, we follow a functional medicine approach to identify what factors contribute to the observed high lipid levels – so that we can create a custom-tailored treatment protocol to address all the issues that are causing elevated cholesterol and lipid levels, instead of prescribing prescription meds that just artificially lower them.
In almost all cases, we find that diet is one of the central issues. For example, eating excessive amounts of sugar, processed white carbohydrates, and inflammatory fats is a big contributor, plus not having enough detoxifying vegetables in the diet. This type of diet also derails insulin levels, causing even higher triglyceride and cholesterol levels.
We also look at other lifestyle factors – including sleep patterns, stress, and genetic factors that may be contributing. This “full-body” approach is the best way to greatly lower your risk and also provide you with a plan for vibrant, overall health.
If you are concerned about your cardiovascular risk due to elevated lipid levels and other hidden factors, we invite you to schedule a Discovery Call with Dr. Massinople to explore your best next steps.
The goal of treating dyslipidemia is to avoid other related diseases such as atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease (ASCVD), acute coronary syndromes, stroke, transient ischemic attack, or peripheral arterial disease.
That’s why in our program, we conduct a thorough intake of all the factors that could be causing your dyslipidemia and guide you on the best path to reducing your risk factors.