What is hypercholesterolemia?

Hypercholesterolemia is an increase in the level of cholesterol in the blood above what is considered normal. The elevated level of cholesterol is related to coronary problems, lifestyle, gender, and diet. Various factors play a role in the disease; genetic and dietary factors need to be taken into account, as well as other ones related to physical activity.

Symptoms of hypercholesterolemia:

Patients often do not perceive that anything is wrong with them until the possible occurrence of a cardiovascular event, such as a heart attack or angina. In some cases, cholesterol deposits under the skin may appear (xanthomas or xanthelasma).

What are the causes of hypercholesterolemia?

The main factors contributing to hypercholesterolemia are:

  • An unhealthy diet: excessive consumption of animal fats or alcohol makes the body consume other types of nutrients first, so it is more likely that cholesterol is not broken down and hence it accumulates in the arteries.
  • Hepatic, renal or endocrine diseases.
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia: a hereditary disease in which cholesterol cannot be broken down, leading to a gradual increase in its level.

Can hypercholesterolemia be prevented?

The main recommendations for preventing hypercholesterolemia are as follows:

  • Follow a balanced diet (it is important to avoid saturated fats).
  • Do physical activity of moderate intensity on a regular basis.

Following these two recommendations also helps to prevent or control other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases that are sometimes associated with hypercholesterolemia, e.g. obesity or hypertension.

How is hypercholesterolemia treated?

Generally, all patients with hypercholesterolemia should improve their diet in order to reduce cholesterol levels, increase their physical activity and eliminate risk factors that could promote the development of associated diseases.

If the dietary treatment does not achieve the desired goal, a pharmacological treatment should be added, one individualised to the patient, given that other risk factors should be taken into account, along with associated diseases.