by Stewart B. Segal, MD
SERVICE MANUAL – HYPERLIPIDEMIA
Patients with high cholesterol/triglycerides require the same routine yearly preventative exams as those without high blood pressure. In addition, they require both daily home monitoring of dietary habits and quarterly to biannual office visits to maximize their care. Hyperlipidemia, if left untreated or poorly controlled, is associated with heart disease and stroke. Like diabetes and hypertension, high cholesterol is best controlled with a team approach. The most important member of the team is still the patient. I should stress the fact that family members are critical to helping any patient suffering from any disease process, especially when dietary modifications are a key component of treatment. The person responsible for shopping, meal planning and preparation should know as much about high cholesterol/triglycerides/diabetes/hypertension as the patient
Daily home maintenance is essential. Patients with elevated cholesterol should monitor their diets closely. Diets rich in fiber (>28 grams/daily) and low in fats and cholesterol are essential. The D.A.S.H. diet (http://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health/public/heart/hbp/dash/new_dash.pdf) is also highly recommended. Weight control is essential. A daily exercise routine plays an equally important role in the management of hyperlipidemia as it does in hypertension and diabetes.
Quarterly or biannual medical checkups (dependent on severity of the cholesterol abnormality, family history and medication requirements) should include a careful review of your dietary habits and exercise routine. Monitoring your weight, your blood pressure, an exam of your eyes (your doctor can actually see your arteries and veins through your pupil), heart and lungs, and laboratory testing, including liver function testing and cholesterol level, as well as tests to monitor any medication you are taking.
When caught early and treated aggressively with diet, exercise and medication (when needed), many people with hyperlipidemia can reverse or markedly slow the progression of this disease and limit its effects on heart, brain. As demonstrated by the patient I wrote about on Tuesday, November 9,2010 living a medication free lifestyle is possible. However, even when diet control is achieved, you have to adhere to the maintenance routine for life. You cannot go back to ignorance and assume you are cured.