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Hyperlipidemia is an imbalance of cholesterol in your blood caused by a combination of having too much LDL cholesterol and not enough HDL cholesterol to clear it up.

There are two main classifications of hyperlipidemia: familial and acquired. The familial type stems from genes you inherit from your parents.

The acquired type is the result of:

  • underlying health conditions
  • medications you take
  • lifestyle choices

Acquired hyperlipidemia

Acquired hyperlipidemia is most often the result of certain lifestyle factors. It may also result from medications you take or underlying health conditions.

Lifestyle causes of hyperlipidemia

Lifestyle factors can raise “bad” cholesterol levels and lower “good” cholesterol levels.

According to the American Heart Association, the main lifestyle choices that raise your chances of developing high cholesterol levels include:

  • an unbalanced diet
  • insufficient exercise
  • smoking or regular exposure to secondhand smoke
  • overweight or obesity
  • heavy alcohol use

Health conditions that contribute to hyperlipidemia

Certain health conditions can also contribute to high cholesterol levels, including:

  • kidney disease
  • diabetes
  • poly cystic ovarian syndrome
  • an underactive thyroid
  • liver disease

Other inherited conditions and pregnancy may also contribute to high cholesterol.

Medications that contribute to hyperlipidemia

Your cholesterol levels may sometimes be affected by certain medications, such as:

  • birth control pills
  • diuretics
  • corticosteroids
  • antiretrovirals for HIV treatment
  • beta blockers

Beta-blockers rarely affect cholesterol levels, and often not enough to merit stopping the medications.

Familial combined hyperlipidemia

Familial combined hyperlipidemia (or mixed hyperlipidemia) is a type that you can inherit from your parents or grandparents. It causes high cholesterol and high triglyceride levels.

People with familial combined hyperlipidemia often develop high cholesterol or high triglyceride levels in their teens and receive a diagnosis in their 20s or 30s. This condition increases chances of early coronary artery disease and heart attack.

Unlike people with typical hyperlipidemia, people with familial combined hyperlipidemia may experience symptoms of cardiovascular disease early in life, such as:

  • chest pain at a young age
  • heart attack at a young age
  • cramping in the calves while walking
  • sores on the toes that don’t heal properly
  • stroke symptoms, including trouble speaking, drooping on one side of the face, or weakness in the extremities

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