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What is a Lipid Specialist?

Lipid specialists reduce deaths related to high cholesterol and other lipid disorders. It is the goal of lipid specialists to enhance the practice of lipid management in clinical medicine and to reduce the morbidity and mortality associated with atherosclerotic disease. The specialty of "lipidology," a multidisciplinary branch of medicine focusing on lipid and lipoprotein metabolism and their associated disorders, is still in its infancy and continues to evolve with the field of medicine as a whole.

The National Lipid Association defines "clinical lipidology" as "a multidisciplinary branch of medicine focusing on lipid and lipoprotein metabolism and their associated disorders." The field is growing rapidly in response to demographic trends that place an increasing number of Americans at risk for coronary heart disease (CHD) and epidemic levels of obesity concurrent with a surge in new cases of diabetes mellitus.

What does a Lipid Specialist do?

Lipid specialists primarily treat, or specialize in the treatment of, persons with disorders or disruptions in the amount of lipids in the blood (dyslipidemia). Lipids are fats and normal levels are required for good health. Abnormally high or low lipid levels can lead to illness and cardiovascular disease, including arterial blockage, heart attack, and stroke. A lipid specialist has extended training and expertise in the diagnosis and treatment of dyslipidemias, and may prescribe drug therapy, changes in diet, and lifestyle modifications as needed to help patients achieve and maintain good health.

Lipid specialists may be physicians who concentrate on preventive cardiology or endocrine disorders, some work in allied professions such as pharmacology or dietetics. Increasingly, these kinds of specialists are forming lipid clinics so that patients can be treated by a professional team of medical doctors, nurse practitioners, pharmacists, and dietitians who collectively treat dyslipidemias from the entire spectrum of medicine.

Conditions & diseases treated by Lipid Specialists

The most common disease treated by lipid specialists is hyperlipidemia, an excess of lipids in the blood. These are most often low-density lipoprotein cholesterol (LDL-C) and triglycerides. Certain disorders result in specific imbalances, such as:

  • Hypercholesterolemia: elevated cholesterol
  • Hyperglyceridemia: high glycerides
  • Hypertriglyceridemia: high triglycerides
  • Hyperlipoproteinemia: raised levels of lipoproteins
  • Hyperchylomicronemia: abnormal levels of chylomicrons
  • Combined hyperlipidemia: high LDL-C and triglycerides
  • Familial hypercholesterolemia: a specific form of hypercholesterolemia due to a chromosomal defect
  • Diabetes Mellitus

The density of lipids and the type of protein that contains them ultimately determines their impact on the body and its metabolism. In western societies, most lipid and lipoprotein disorders result from risk factors such as diet and amount of physical activity. Less common are genetic disorders that result in lipid imbalances.