High levels of blood fat

There are several types of fat in the blood. Some are beneficial, others can be harmful. The fats that the doctor usually assess are cholesterol and triglycerides. Fat can begin to be stored inside the blood vessels if the levels of blood fat become too high. It can lead to various cardiovascular diseases.

The amount of blood fat is affected by hereditary conditions. You can usually lower blood fats by changing your lifestyle, but sometimes treated with drugs is also needed.

Symptoms of high levels of blood fat

Usually, elevated blood fat levels do not produce symptoms in themselves. But in the long run, they can lead to illnesses, which in turn cause symptoms. It is unusual, but at high cholesterol levels, some people may develop bulges that form in connection with a joint or tendon. Some people instead get white-yellow deposits around the eyes.

What happens in the body?

Cholesterol and triglycerides are the two types of fat found primarily in the blood, but also in the cells. The triglycerides are used as energy in the body, and cholesterol is needed to build cells and produce hormones. If you have high levels of the harmful LDL cholesterol in your blood, it can contribute to so-called artery fat. This means that the blood fats have been stored in the walls of the blood vessels so that the blood vessels have become stiff and narrow. In the longer term, there is a risk of blood vessels becoming clogged again. It can lead to various cardiovascular diseases such as angina, myocardial infarction, stroke or angina.

HDL is usually called beneficial cholesterol and is associated with a protective effect. It carries away the harmful cholesterol from the vessel walls.

Excessive levels of triglycerides can also contribute to vein fat. Sometimes the levels of LDL cholesterol and triglycerides are elevated simultaneously, while HDL cholesterol is lowered.

High levels of blood fats should not lead to disease

Thus, high levels of blood fat increase the risk of cardiovascular disease, but at the same time, it is important to remember that the risk is due to several different factors. A high cholesterol value does not in itself mean that you are prematurely ill with any cardiovascular disease. For example, many people who have a heart attack have blood fat values ​​that are basically as they should be.

Similarities with high blood pressure

Having high levels of blood fats has similarities to having high blood pressure. In both cases, you usually have no problems, but in the longer term, you increase the risk of getting heart and blood vessels. 

When and where should I seek care?

Contact a health care center to have blood fat levels checked if any of the following apply to you:

  • You have a cardiovascular disease caused by atherosclerosis, such as myocardial infarction,  angina, strokes or leg cramps.
  • You have type 2 diabetes.
  • You have kidney disease.
  • You have close biological relatives who have early cardiovascular disease. By early is meant before age 55 for men and before age 65 for women.
  • You are smoking.
  • You have high blood pressure.
  • You have obesity or obesity.
  • You drink a lot of alcohol.

Investigations

High levels of blood fats can only be detected through blood tests. Blood fat values ​​can vary from time to time. Therefore, you usually have to submit blood tests several times. Cholesterol levels can be measured without special preparation. However, even if the other blood fats are to be checked, the test should usually be fasted, ie before eating in the morning. This is necessary for the blood sugar level to be measured simultaneously.

Other diseases and living habits determine the treatment

The risk of cardiovascular disease at elevated blood fat levels varies from person to person. This is because other conditions or living habits such as cardiovascular disease or smoking are also important. Therefore, a physician may consider that, for example, a certain cholesterol value does not need to be treated in one person, while it should be treated with drugs in another.

What is loud?

Blood fat values ​​are measured in the unit millimolar per liter. The limit for what is a desirable content of total cholesterol is usually about 5.0 millimoles per liter. The value should be 4.5 millimoles at high risk, ie if you have any cardiovascular disease or other that increases the risk.

The level of harmful cholesterol LDL should not exceed 3.0 millimoles per liter. At high risk, the content should not exceed 2.5 millimoles. For a very high-risk minority, the content should be a maximum of 1.8 and a maximum of 1.4 millimoles for early myocardial infarction.

The beneficial cholesterol HDL should not be lower than 1.0 millimoles per liter. The level of triglycerides should not exceed 2.0 millimoles per liter. 

Other investigations

There are diseases that can cause the levels of fat in the blood to rise. Therefore, the doctor often takes other blood tests to rule out that you have, for example, impaired thyroid function that results in low metabolism, diabetes, liver disease or kidney disease. If you have liver tests that are not really good, it may be because you drink a lot of alcohol. This, in turn, can cause you to get high levels of blood fats, especially triglycerides. Also, diabetes and precursors it can raise triglycerides and lower HDL cholesterol.

Resting blood pressure and blood sugar levels are also measured if you have high blood fat values. You may also undergo an ECG examination to allow your doctor to detect if you have previously had, for example, heart attacks or other heart problems. 

What can I do for myself?

You should primarily change your lifestyle if you have high blood fat values. Then the values ​​can be improved and you can also get lower blood pressure. You can change your lifestyle as follows:

  • It is important to quit smoking to reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease. It can be difficult to manage on your own, but many health centers can offer support for smoking cessation.
  •  Eat healthier food. The foods that are good for lowering high levels of blood fat are basically the same as recommended when you have diabetes, obesity, and high blood pressure. 
  • Touch you more. Regular exercise improves health and reduces the risk of illness in several ways. 
  • Drink less alcohol. Harmful blood fat levels can increase if you drink a lot of alcohol. The risk of cardiovascular disease and other diseases is also increasing. 

Treatment for high levels of blood fat

A change in lifestyle often enough to lower the values ​​if you have moderately elevated blood fat levels. Most health centers can provide support and advice if you find it difficult to change your lifestyle. 

Sometimes drug treatment is needed

You may need treatment for high levels of blood fat with medicines to lower the level of fat in the blood. This applies, for example, if you have a disease or something that increases the risk of cardiovascular disease and changes in diet and exercise do not produce enough results. Drug treatment is usually needed if, for example, you have had a heart attack or stroke, if you have diabetes or some form of the hereditary raising of the fat.

Right to information

The healthcare staff should tell you what treatment options are available. They should make sure you understand what the different options mean, what side effects are available and where you can get treatment for high levels of blood fat. That way you can help decide which treatment is right for you.

In order for you to be active in your care and make decisions, it is important that you understand the information you receive. The healthcare staff is obliged to make sure that you do so. Ask questions. You can also ask to have the information written down so you can read it peacefully.

More information

The patient version of the National Board of Health and Welfare’s national guidelines for care at high levels of blood fats

The National Board of Health and Welfare has developed national guidelines for how high levels of blood fats and a number of other diseases should be investigated and treated. The guidelines contain recommendations for health care about certain examinations and treatments that may be relevant to treating you who have high levels of blood fats.

In the area, there are also examinations and treatments that are done more routinely. They are not included in the guidelines.

Here you can read the patient version of the national guidelines for high blood fat levels.

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