What is a Lipidologist?

How do I know if I need one? 

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   The term lipid is used to describe fats that exist within your body, to include cholesterol and triglycerides, which are the most commonly measured lipids at your annual physical .  They are made from building blocks found within your cells,  or are absorbed from the food that you eat.  They are fundamental to the proper functioning of your body, and  animals have

developed dazzlingly complicated ways of keeping levels of lipids in an ideal range.  There is also a complex web of interactions between lipids and other parts of the metabolic system, the part of your body that regulates the way you use and store energy.  When  the proper functioning of the metabolism breaks down or becomes overridden by other influences such as genetics, diet, medications, insufficient sleep or other lifestyle factors- it can lead to many chronic health problems affecting nearly every organ system in your body.  These problems can include heart attacks, strokes, cirrhosis, dementia and cancer.

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     Lipidology is a medical specialty focused on the management of problems related to abnormal levels of cholesterol and/or triglycerides.  Lipidologists are certified by the American Board of Clinical Lipidology and commonly belong to the National Lipid Association.  They are trained to look at numerous underlying factors to determine who may be at increased risk.  Considering that heart attacks and strokes are the leading cause of death in the United States, accounting for 1 death every 37 seconds, that's a whole lot of people!  Additionally, one-third of the people in the United States exhibit metabolic syndrome- a vastly under-diagnosed disorder of the way your body utilizes energy.  Metabolic syndrome drastically increases your risk of many chronic conditions, some of which are listed above.  

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     The good news is that the disorders linked to high cholesterol and/or metabolic syndrome generally develop over the course of years or decades.  This means that early identification of factors putting you at risk, and early treatments aimed at lowering that risk can dramatically reduce your chances of developing health problems.  Much like interest building up in a savings account, the early investments made in your health pay substantial rewards as you get older.  Many times people can appear healthy on the outside even as their metabolic system is going off the healthy track.  And if a person isn't clearly exhibiting health symtoms, this metabolic disorder goes unrecognized, and untreated        

until eventually these health problems come to the surface.  This is where a lipidologist fits in.  They can provide a deeper evaluation of your metabolic health than would be commonly done in your regular health check up.  

     For those who have already suffered from health problems related to lipid disorders, all hope is not lost!  Research has shown that proactive, aggressive lipid management can substantially decrease the odds of a next event.  Most often however, a stroke or heart attack doesn't happen by itself, it usually occurs alongside other health problems as well.  As the number of health problems increases, as well as the medications that come with them, a lipid specialist can be a great asset in using the most up to date resources to design a plan to reduce your risk without compounding your problems. 

     Lipidologists treat patients at all stages of their health journey.  This includes people with or without established complications from cholesterol or metabolic-related disorders.  If you have abnormal blood levels of cholesterol or triglyceride a lipidologist can certainly  help.  Lipidologists can also assist in screening for commonly overlooked genetic causes of lipid-related problems, particularly if you have a strong family history of heart attacks or strokes.  If you (like 35-50% of the US population) have insulin resistance, or are concerned you might, a lipidologist can help diagnose and treat this problem before it leads to complications.

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     The most important place to start is by getting your lipids checked.  Based on these results, and on other features of your personal health history a lipid specialist may be beneficial to you.  They will help you understand your risk and will assist you take the appropriate steps toward prevention and treatment.

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