Programs and Disease Treatment
Lipids — fats made up of cholesterol, triglycerides and other fats — travel in the bloodstream as part of particles that contain specialized proteins. High lipid levels in the blood increase a person’s risk for heart attack, stroke, peripheral vascular disease and other cardiovascular diseases. Lowering cholesterol levels lowers one’s risk of these diseases. In addition, rare genetic disorders affecting lipids may also lead to harm and require specialist attention.
Medical College of Wisconsin endocrinologists play an important role in identifying and treating general as well as specialized lipid disorders. Patients may be referred by their primary care physician or cardiologist for a lipid evaluation, patients may refer themselves.
An evaluation is to assess a patient’s risk for cardiovascular disease, atherosclerosis and to provide treatment, and when a patient:
- Has trouble lowering his or her lipid level with medication
- Is unable to tolerate statins, a type of medication used to lower cholesterol
- Has a genetic disorder that affects lipid levels (such as one that causes high cholesterol or high triglyceride levels from birth, or other lipid abnormalities such as sitosterolemia)
- Has severe hypertriglyceridemia and is at risk for pancreatitis, which carries a high risk of complications and death.
Following a physical and medical history, blood tests will be done to check for elevated lipid levels, diabetes and other risk factors for cardiovascular disease. Tests include:
Diagnosing Lipid Disorders
- Lipid profile — a blood test that measures total cholesterol, HDL (“good”) cholesterol, LDL (“bad”) cholesterol, triglycerides and very low density lipoprotein (VLDL cholesterol). Lipoproteins are substances made of cholesterol, triglycerides and proteins. They move cholesterol, triglycerides and other lipids to different parts of the body.
- Screening patients for secondary disorders, such as hypothyroidism, uncontrolled diabetes, obesity, kidney disease and other conditions that can worsen lipid disorders. Identifying and controlling these disorders can help in overall lipid control.
Treatment OptionsTreatment for lipid disorders is aimed at intense management of cardiovascular risks to prevent heart attacks, stroke and peripheral vascular disease. Medical College of Wisconsin endocrinologists are able to treat most patients using a combination of diet, exercise and medication.
Medical Nutrition TherapyAll patients require nutritional therapy as part of their treatment. Medical nutrition therapy is used to improve diet and dietary habits, as these can have a significant impact on the blood lipid levels. A dietitian assesses the patient’s diet, nutrition and lifestyle, provides nutrition counseling, and discusses how to manage lifestyle factors that affect diet.
MedicationMedicines that blood cholesterol levels may be prescribed. A wide variety of these have been proven to be effective in large scientific studies.
Exercise planExercise is part of an overall plan to improve cardiovascular fitness, improve symptom control in people with peripheral vascular disease and improve overall health.
Follow-up VisitsFollow-up visits after treatment begins are important to assess lipid levels, to determine if patients are tolerating medication and meeting their goals to lower lipid levels, and to assess development of cardiovascular disease.
Last Review Date: August 25, 2009