If your doctor says you have a lipid disorder, that means you have high blood levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, fats called triglycerides, or both. If you have high levels of these substances, you’re at increased risk for developing heart disease.
To understand what having a lipid disorder means, you need to know about cholesterol. The two major forms of cholesterol found in your body are low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL).
LDL, sometimes known as “bad cholesterol,” is made by your body and also absorbed by your body from cholesterol-rich foods such as red meat and dairy products. LDL can combine with other fats and substances in your blood, creating blockages in your arteries. This can reduce your blood flow and cause serious health problems such as heart disease, heart attack, or stroke. Because of its potential effects, doctors recommend lower levels of LDL.
HDL, sometimes known as “good cholesterol,” has a protective effect on your heart. HDL transports harmful cholesterol out of your arteries. Doctors usually recommend that you have a higher level of HDL cholesterol.
A triglyceride is a type of fat you get mostly from the food you eat. Your body also produces it when it converts excess calories to fat for storage. Some triglycerides are necessary for certain cell functions, but too much is unhealthy. As with LDL, lower levels of triglycerides are considered healthier.
How did I get high blood cholesterol and high triglycerides?
Foods high in certain types of fats, certain medical conditions, and other factors can cause high blood cholesterol and high triglycerides.
Two types of fat are known to increase cholesterol levels.
Saturated fat: Saturated fats can increase your LDL levels. Some plant-based foods, such as palm oil and coconut oil, contain saturated fats. However, saturated fat is mostly found in animal-based food products such as:
Trans fats: Trans fats, or trans-fatty acids, are worse than saturated fats because they can raise your LDL levels and lower your HDL levels. Some trans fats are found naturally in animal products. Others are found in processed foods that have undergone a process called hydrogenation, such as some kinds of margarine and potato chips.
Certain medical conditions can affect your cholesterol levels. High blood cholesterol levels can be caused by:
- Metabolic syndrome
- Cushing’s syndrome
- Polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS)
- Kidney disease
Other causes of high cholesterol levels include:
- Lack of exercise. Not getting enough exercise can increase your LDL levels. Not only that, exercise has been shown to boost your healthy HDL levels.
- Smoking. Smoking can also increase your bad cholesterol, causing plaque to build up in your arteries.
- Genetics. If high cholesterol runs in your family, you’re at increased risk of having high cholesterol yourself.
- Medications. Certain medications, such as some kinds of diuretics, can increase your cholesterol levels.