A lipidologist is a doctor who studies fatty substances called lipids in your blood and looks for ways to manage or treat conditions linked to them. Lipids are useful for making cells and storing fat. But a buildup of them can cause health issues and lead to serious problems, like heart disease.
Lipidologists work with primary care doctors and heart specialists (known as cardiologists) to make prevention or treatment plans.
Conditions Lipidologists Treat
Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), often called “bad cholesterol,” starts in your liver and flows through your arteries. High-density lipoprotein (HDL), or “good cholesterol,” absorbs excess cholesterol. It takes the extra cholesterol back to your liver, where it’s flushed out of your body.
If your LDL and HDL are too far out of balance, that can cause:
If they’re not treated, these conditions may lead to bigger problems. For example, hyperlipidemia can eventually cause a buildup of fatty substances called plaque in the walls of your blood vessels. That can block arteries and make you more likely to have a heart attack or a stroke.
Lipidologists look for ways to manage your levels and keep these kinds of issues from happening.
To keep your levels in check, your doctors may recommend that you:
Some people have high LDL because of a gene they got from a parent or grandparent. One example of this is familial hypercholesterolemia (FH). FH affects the way LDL is removed from your body and causes unhealthy levels of LDL.
A lipidologist may suggest both medications and lifestyle changes to treat FH.
When Would I Need to See a Lipidologist?
If you’re having trouble managing your cholesterol or triglyceride levels, your primary care doctor might recommend that you see a lipidologist.
They also might refer you to one if you have inherited a problem gene that’s causing your high levels. Lipidologists may sometimes treat an entire family in these cases.
You can find a lipidologist near you through organizations like the American Board of Clinical Lipidology (ABCL) or the National Lipid Association.
Lipidology is a specialized field that requires certification from the ABCL. The first step is completing a course in lipid management and passing an exam.
But even being eligible to take the exam is a challenge. First, doctors must earn at least 200 points from the ABCL’s criteria, which includes:
- Being a licensed medical doctor (MD) or doctor of osteopathic medicine (DO) in the U.S. or Canada
- Being board-certified in a field like internal medicine, family practice, pediatrics, obstetrics-gynecology, geriatrics, neurology, or vascular neurology
- Working at least 2 years in an accredited field or in helping people manage their lipid disorders
Once doctors have enough points, they apply for the ABCL Credentialing Committee’s approval to take the exam. After they pass, they have to participate in the ABCL’s Maintenance of Certification (MOC) program and get recertified every 10 years.