Dr. Maciej Malinski is on the medical staff at Sherman Hospital. He has been kind enough to answer some frequently asked questions related to maintaining a healthy heart in his Ask the Cardiologist series. To see all posts Dr. Malinski has written, just type “Ask the Cardiologist” into the search bar on the right.
Q: When should I see a cardiologist instead of my regular doctor for hyperlipidemia?
A: Generally hyperlipidemia (elevated cholesterol levels) can be treated by general practitioners. Most patients have simple lipid disorders, and if one follows the guidelines, the treatment triggers and follow up on therapy is very well defined in published guidelines documents. There is no well-defined training for so-called “lipid specialists”, and by default, cardiologists usually are taking this role.
We have many opportunities during the 3-4 years of cardiology training to learn about all aspects of treatment of hyperlipidemia, because this therapy forms the foundation of medical therapy of coronary artery disease. Also, cardiologists can elect to do extra rotations in so-called lipid clinics to broaden their experience.
For instance, after my internal medicine residency and before starting my cardiology training, I did one extra year of training in preventive cardiology. During this year, the significant part of clinical experience was treating patients with complicated lipid problems.
There is strong evidence for therapy for elevated LDL (bad cholesterol) with well-defined goals. Treating low HDL is more problematic, and before committing somebody to lifelong therapy or adding a second medication to current therapy, it would be reasonable to seek the opinion of somebody who has more than an average experience in treating lipid disorders.
Other reasons to visit lipid specialist would be if one is starting multiple medications for treatment of hyperlipidemia or has an unusual case of lipid disorders, i.e. very high triglycerides or intolerance of many lipid-lowering drugs.
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This post is published by Sherman Health to provide general health information. It is not intended to provide personal medical advice, which should be obtained directly from your physician.