What constitutes a lipid disorder?
A lipid disorder is characterized by either one or a combination of the following:
- High cholesterol levels – High levels of Low-Density Lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) or Total Cholesterol
- High triglyceride levels – High levels of fats in the blood
- Low concentrations of High-Density Lipoprotein Cholesterol (HDL-C)
Watch this video by American Heart Association for an audio-visual representation:
What factors increase my risk?
Your chances of developing lipid disorders are increased if you:
- Are Diabetic
- Are obese/overweight
- Have a family history of lipid disorders
- Follow a diet rich in saturated and/or trans fats and highly processed foods
- Not being physically active
- Are a smoker
- Have an underactive thyroid
- You are older (45 years and above)
Blood pressure is the force applied by the blood to the walls of the arteries as it flows through. Blood pressure may fall or rise throughout the day due to many factors such as excitement, anger, anxiety, hunger and physical activity. When blood pressure is elevated for a long period of time( greater than 130/80mm/Hg), it is classified as high blood pressure/hypertension.
In hypertension the heart has to work harder to pump blood throughout the body and this increases the risk to atherosclerosis (hardening of arteries) and heart disease as well as stroke. Hypertension can also result to other conditions such as kidney failure and blindness.
Hypertension and lipid disorders normally coexist and increase the risk of developing cardiovascular diseases. The two conditions are major features of metabolic syndrome. When they co-occur the chances of suffering from cardiovascular disease multiplies.
Key highlight on the interplay between Lipid Disorders and Hypertension
- Lipid disorders affect the structure and function of arteries during the development of atherosclerosis. Subsequently, the arteries loose elasticity and can become narrower leading to a buildup of blood pressure.
- Some factors such as obesity can contribute to the co-occurrence of hypertension and lipid disorders. For example, abdominal obesity promotes the increase in LDL-cholesterol and high blood pressure.
- Lipid disorders can also disrupt the mechanisms responsible for regulating blood pressure.
- Some medication used to treat hypertension, and other drugs such as those based on estrogen and steroids can interfere with the blood lipid levels.
Both hypertension and lipid disorders are influenced by diet and lifestyle. On the other hand, treating lipid disorders, especially reducing the level of LDL-C, can help in lowering a patient’s blood pressure.
Increased consumption of monounsaturated fatty acids lowers LDL-C, while polyunsaturated fatty acids such as omega 3 and omega 6 oils reduce the level of LDL-C, HDL-C, and triglycerides. Sources include mackerel, tuna, and salmon.
Patients should limit the intake of saturated and trans fatty acids because they have a negative effect on the lipid profile. It is advisable to reduce intake of animal proteins together with baked or fried food because they are rich in saturated and trans fats. When consuming dairy products always ensure they are skimmed (have no fat).
High sodium intake increases blood pressure especially among older individuals and people who are already suffering from hypertension. Therefore, it is important to reduce intake of table salt. Processed food is usually laced with a high amount of sodium and it is important to avoid them. It is advisable to limit the amount of salt by choosing foods carefully. For example, always opt for unsalted nuts.
Increased intake of fruits and vegetables will provide antioxidants that are necessary to fight the inflammation that contributes to the development of cardiovascular diseases after the onset of lipid disorders and hypertension. Besides, plants provide sterols and stanols that lower the blood levels of LDL cholesterol. The diet should contain grains, legumes, nuts, and seeds. Good nuts include almonds and walnuts, which provide both monosaturated fatty acids and antioxidants. Moreover, eating plant proteins such as soya beans suppress the level of blood cholesterol. Since dietary fiber also suppress LDL cholesterol, the diet should have sources of fiber such as oatmeal and bran.
Sedentary lifestyles can contribute to the development of lipid disorders. On the contrary, engaging in physical activity can raise the level of HDL-C, which mitigates the development of cardiovascular diseases. It is advisable to engage in activities such as aerobic exercises and resistance training. Exercise lowers the level of triglycerides and increases the concentration of HDL-C. However, the duration of the exercises is important for the positive results to be achieved. Longer duration leading to desirable results.
High Body Mass Index increases the risk of hypertension and lipid disorders. It is important to control obesity and overweight by engaging in weight management programs. Combining dietary and physical activity interventions is more effective at weight management.
Smoking interferes with the function of blood vessels by increasing their stiffness, modifying the lipid composition, and promoting inflammation. Over time, the negative impact contributes to the development of cardiovascular complications. The effect is more pronounced if the smoker is already hypertensive. Therefore, it is important to cease smoking to prevent the development of hypertension. This can be done through routine counselling or interventions such as use of nicotine patches.
Excessive intake of alcohol promotes the development of lipid disorders and is mostly associated with increased levels of triglycerides. However, the effects on the lipid profile can be reversed by staying sober for several weeks. Therefore, it is advisable to reduce alcohol consumption and stick to 2 and 1 standard drinks for men and women, respectively.