Hyperlipidemia means that there are too many lipids, or fats, in your blood. Over time, these fats can block your arteries and lead to serious health complications. About 50% of adults in the United States have hyperlipidemia.

“Hyperlipidemia can be hard to identify in the early stages. Most people don’t know they have it until they get the results of a blood test, and it usually doesn’t cause any symptoms.”

Minor symptoms can occur in rare cases of hyperlipidemia. The only way to diagnose hyperlipidemia is with a blood test. It is a good idea to talk to your doctor about your risk and to ask for a blood test if you are concerned.

Often, people have hyperlipidemia without realizing it. It’s very common for the condition not to cause any symptoms at all.

When symptoms occur, they generally happen when a person has an inherited condition that causes their lipid levels to be high. Symptoms may also occur if hyperlipemia has led to a complication, such as heart disease, which has its own symptoms.

Symptoms associated with familial combined hyperlipidemia (FCHL) include:

  • waxy, yellow, plaques of fat on the skin around the joints or eyes, called xanthomas
  • rings around the iris of the eye called corneal arcus

There are symptoms associated with hyperlipidemia.

“Cholesterol testing is part of a doctor’s visit. If you have a family history of high cholesterol, you can determine how often you test.”

The American Heart Association recommends a cholesterol reading for adults at low risk at least once every 4 to 6 years. After age 40, it’s best to discuss your personal risk with a doctor to determine how often you should check your blood lipid levels.

It is a good idea to contact a doctor if you notice something unusual around your eyes or skin. If you have any symptoms that could indicate a problem with hyperlipidemia, you should get medical care.

Hyperlipidemia is diagnosed with a medical exam and a blood test called a lipid panel. During your medical exam, a doctor will review your and your family’s medical history. It’s important for your doctor to know if hyperlipidemia runs in your family.

A panel will measure your cholesterol.

You will be able to determine if you have hyperlipidemia or if you are at risk.

There are different types of hyperlipidemia. Doctors define them by the levels of different lipids in your blood. These include:

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), optimal lipid levels are as follows:

Lipid Level (mg/dL)
Total cholesterol About 150
LDL cholesterol About 100
HDL cholesterol Men: 40 or higher
Women: 50 or higher
Triglycerides Less than 150

Cholesterol can build up on the walls of your arteries. It is difficult for blood to flow through your body. You can experience serious consequences as a result.

  • Chest pain: Chest pain from angina can happen when your arteries are blocked, causing reduced blood flow to your heart.
  • Coronary artery disease (CAD): CAD is a common type of heart disease that can lead to a heart attack. Damage to your coronary arteries, the arteries that supply your heart with blood, causes CAD.
  • Heart attack: Hyperlipidemia can cause a heart attack. This can be due to CAD or plaque completely blocking blood flow to your heart.
  • Peripheral artery disease (PAD): Your peripheral arteries supply blood to your limbs. When plaque restricts blood flow in these arteries, it can cause symptoms such as numbness, swelling, tingling, and pain.
  • Blood clots: Plaques can rupture and cause blood clots to form.
  • Stroke: When blood clots form, they can block the blood flow to your brain, resulting in a stroke.

Doctors will recommend lifestyle changes to treat hyperlipidemia. This is enough for some people to permanently control their condition, lower their cholesterol, and avoid problems.

lifestyle changes

Others may need a combination of medication and lifestyle changes to manage hyperlipidemia. Statins are the most common medications taken for hyperlipidemia.

You and a doctor can work together to come up with a plan.

“People with hyperlipidemia don’t experience any symptoms. Doctors will usually identify hyperlipidemia during routine blood work. There are exceptions.”

People with a genetic condition called FCHL can have symptoms such as waxy yellow on their skin and cholesterol rings around their eyes. People with problems from hyperlipidemia may have symptoms.

Hyperlipidemia can cause many serious and life threatening problems. It is a good idea to talk to your doctor about your risk of hyperlipidemia and to test for it.