There are many risk factors for developing heart disease, which remains the number one cause of death in the developed world. Some of these can’t be changed, like age, gender, ethnicity and family history. Other risk factors can be modified, including having abnormal blood cholesterol or triglyceride levels, diabetes or insulin resistance, high blood pressure, being obese or having a big waist circumference, smoking and not exercising. Some anti-HIV drugs may increase these risk factors by altering blood fat levels, causing insulin resistance and increasing abdominal fat.

Dyslipidemia and heart disease – Dyslipidemia is the term used to describe abnormal levels of fats (called lipids) in the blood. The different types of lipids in the blood that are routinely measured include HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, triglycerides, and total cholesterol. HDL(high-density lipoprotein) cholesterol is the “good” cholesterol—it removes fats from the blood. LDL (low-density lipoprotein) cholesterol and triglycerides are the so-called “bad” fats. 

Total cholesterol is a measure of both types of cholesterol (HDL and LDL) in the blood together. There is a range of values that is considered healthy for each lipid. If your lipid levels fall outside the normal range, you may be at increased risk of problems.Because what you recently ate affects the levels of lipids in your bloodstream,it is important to have your lipids tested while you are fasting(no food or drink for at least 8 to 12 hours before the test, and no alcohol for a couple of days before).

Nutrition and lifestyle factors are always the first line of treatment for abnormal blood lipids. Even if lipid-lowering medications like statins or fibrates are needed, it is still important to work on diet and exercise. Keep in mind that some people with dyslipidemia are underweight and some of the following nutritional strategies promote weight loss. If unwanted weight loss occurs, talk with your doctor and seek personalized advice from a qualified dietitian or nutritionist.