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Hyperlipidaemia means a high level of cholesterol or triglycerides in your blood.

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What causes hyperlipidaemia?

Hyperlipidaemia is often found when people are overweight or have an unhealthy diet. It can also be the result of drinking too much alcohol. It can be something that you may have inherited through your family genes (known as primary hyperlipidaemia) and approximately 1 person in 500 will have this cause.

Other conditions

It may be because of another medical condition that you may have, such as diabetes, when it is known as secondary. Other causes include:

Medicine side-effects

Some prescribed medicines can affect your cholesterol level, including:

How do I know if I have hyperlipidaemia?

  • Hyperlipidaemia is often found during routine screening when your doctor is trying to assess your risk of having heart attacks or strokes. This may be as part of an annual health check if you are over 40 years of age, or if you have a close relative who had these problems at a young age.

  • Usually, the diagnosis is made after a fasting blood test. Fasting means at least 12 hours when you have not eaten. You are allowed to drink water.

  • There are also changes that may be visible on your body if you have the inherited form of hyperlipidaemia:

    • Premature arcus senilis - this is a white or grey ring that is visible when your doctor looks at the front of your eyes.

    • Tendon xanthomata - these are hard nodules that you may find in the tendons of the knuckles and the Achilles (at the back of your ankle).

    • Xanthelasma - fatty deposits in the eyelids.

See the separate leaflet called Familial Hypercholesterolaemia.

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What can I do to lower my lipid levels?

Hyperlipidaemia can be treated both by eating a healthy diet and by taking a medicine to reduce your cholesterol level. It is also very important to lower any other risk factors for cardiovascular diseases, such as doing regular physical activity and not smoking. See the separate leaflet called Cardiovascular Disease (Atheroma) for more information.


Changing from an unhealthy diet to a healthy diet can reduce a cholesterol level. However, dietary changes alone rarely lower a cholesterol level enough to change a person's risk of cardiovascular disease from a high-risk category to a lower-risk category. A healthy diet has other benefits too, apart from reducing the level of cholesterol. See also the separate leaflet called Healthy Eating.


If you are at high risk of developing a cardiovascular disease then medication is usually advised along with advice to tackle any lifestyle issues, including diet. Medication can be used to lower your cholesterol or triglyceride level, usually with a statin medicine. Read more about statins and other lipid-lowering medicines for further details.

Further reading and references

Article history

The information on this page is written and peer reviewed by qualified clinicians.

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