The diagnosis of hyperlipidemia requires a high index of suspicion in high-risk populations. This should include individuals who eat diets high in saturated fats and cholesterol and low in complex carbohydrates and high fiber foods. Additional risk factors for hyperlipidemia include a positive family history of hyperlipidemia, a history of diabetes mellitus, hypothyroidism or nephrotic syndrome, and the use of drugs that raise serum cholesterol, including corticosteroids, beta-blockers and diuretics.

The diagnosis of hyperlipidemia is based on the serum total cholesterol or LDL cholesterol. Since this is a continuous predictor variable, these definitions are arbitrary and depend on the presence and severity of additional cardiovascular risk factors.