High cholesterol plays a cause and effect role in a number of other health conditions - making the topic of high cholesterol symptoms and side effects a slightly confusing one.

But, worry not as we’re here to take you through all you need to know about the symptoms and side effects of high cholesterol and how to check your levels from home.


Contents



What Are The Symptoms Of High Cholesterol?


Though high cholesterol may act as a catalyst for other conditions that cause symptoms, there are no direct symptoms for high cholesterol [1].

Since there are no symptoms, it’s important to test your cholesterol on a regular basis to avoid some of the potential complications associated with having elevated cholesterol levels.

How Do You Know If You Have High Cholesterol?

The best way to know if you have high cholesterol? Get tested! Here’s how often you should test your cholesterol levels [2]:

  • Before puberty: Once between ages 9 and 11

  • After puberty: Once between ages 17 and 21

  • Adulthood: Every 4 to 6 years

If your family has a history of early heart attacks or heart disease, or if you are diabetic or obese, doctors may recommend screening for high cholesterol more often.




What Are The Side Effects of High Cholesterol?


The side effects of high cholesterol depend on a number of variables, including:

  • Existing health history

  • The length of time you’ve been living with high cholesterol

  • Current lifestyle factors

Here are the most common side effects associated with a build-up of high LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and low HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) in the blood over a prolonged period of time:

Heart Disease

High LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol are both risk factors for atherosclerosis - the leading cause of heart disease [3].

Atherosclerosis is a condition in which cholesterol, fats, and other substances build-up in the arteries - this build-up becomes known as plaque and it may lead to:

  • Blood clots

  • Reduced oxygen flow within the circulatory system

  • Hardening of blood vessels and arteries

  • Coronary artery disease

  • Peripheral artery disease

  • Aneurysms and chronic kidney disease

Heart Attack

In simple terms, a heart attack occurs when the coronary arteries in your heart suddenly become blocked; this cuts off the blood supply to the heart, preventing our heart muscle from functioning properly. This can occur due to a clot or a build-up of atherosclerotic plaque in these vessels.

High cholesterol over a prolonged period of time may play a role in one’s risk of experiencing a heart attack.

Stroke

Stroke refers to a condition in which sufficient blood flow cannot reach the brain, this may lead to cell death in our nervous tissue [4]. High cholesterol is a risk factor for stroke due to a build-up of atherosclerotic plaque which may block blood flow to parts of the brain.

There are two main forms of stroke:

  • Ischemic stroke occurs when there isn’t enough blood flow reaching the brain due to a blockage in the blood vessels.

  • Hemorrhagic stroke occurs when a blood vessel ruptures, resulting in a bleed on the brain.

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure is a condition that occurs when the pressure in the arteries is higher than it should be, and the body struggles to pump blood around the body [5].

High blood pressure and high cholesterol are interlinked; the build-up of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries reduces the width of vessels leading to increased pressure within the vessels.

Type 2 diabetes

It’s been shown that increased blood sugar may lead to high levels of triglycerides in the body, and lower HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) [6].

If you have type 2 diabetes, be sure to keep an eye on your cholesterol levels so you’re informed of the changes that may be necessary to reduce your risk of developing high cholesterol and cardiovascular issues.


Do you suspect that you have high cholesterol? With LetsGetChecked, it’s now possible to check your cholesterol levels from home. Order your cholesterol test online today.


Browse Home Cholesterol Tests


Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Susan O’ Sullivan


References

  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High Cholesterol Facts. Online: cdc.org, 2019

  2. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, How and when to have your cholesterol checked. Online: cdc.gov, 2018

  3. Centres for Disease Control and Prevention. Heart Disease Facts. Online: cdc.gov. 2019

  4. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Stroke Fact Sheet. Online: cdc.gov, 2017

  5. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. High Blood Pressure Fact Sheet. Online: cdc.gov, 2016

  6. National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Risk Factors for Type 2 Diabetes. Online: niddk.nih.gov, 2016