It’s common to get confused when it comes to the topic of high cholesterol symptoms and the side effects that high cholesterol may have.
This confusion often comes from the fact that high cholesterol plays a cause and effect role in a number of other health conditions.
Let’s talk through high cholesterol symptoms and the potential side effects of high cholesterol.
What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?
There are no symptoms of high cholesterol.
High cholesterol may act as a catalyst for other conditions that cause symptoms, however there is no way to know if you are living with high cholesterol based on how you look or feel.
In other words, high cholesterol has no symptoms and for that reason, it’s important to test your cholesterol on a regular basis to avoid some of the potential complications associated with high cholesterol.
If you are experiencing physical symptoms of high cholesterol, these physical side effects will be caused by a prolonged period of high LDL cholesterol.
As there are no symptoms of high cholesterol, and the only way to know if you have high cholesterol is to get tested, you’re probably wondering how often you should be getting your cholesterol tested.
Some guidelines suggest that children with no risk factors for high cholesterol should get tested once between the ages of 9 and 11, and then again between the ages of 17 and 19.
Adults with no risk factors for high cholesterol should get tested every 4-6 years from the age of 20 years of age.
High cholesterol has no symptoms, but it does pose a significant risk for more critical events such as heart disease, stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure. This is reason enough for getting tested on a regular basis.
The majority of people will not realize that they have high cholesterol until it is causing a number of other negative side effects in the body.
Here are some examples of side effects that cholesterol may cause:
- Angina or chest pain (may be caused by atherosclerosis)
- Sudden numbness and/or weakness in the body(may be caused by stroke)
- Shortness of breath (may be caused by a heart attack)
- Xanthoma (may be caused by the buildup of fatty deposits under the skin)
In our next section, let’s talk through some of the most common side effects of high cholesterol.
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 have been living with high cholesterol and current lifestyle factors.
A buildup of high LDL cholesterol (bad cholesterol) and low HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol) in the blood over a prolonged period of time may lead to a number of side effects or heart conditions including:
There is a connection between high cholesterol and risk of heart disease.
Heart disease refers to a range of conditions that affect your heart.
High LDL cholesterol and low HDL cholesterol are both risk factors for atherosclerosis, the leading cause of heart disease.
Atherosclerosis is a condition in which cholesterol, fats and other substances build-up in the arteries. This build-up becomes known as plaque.This plaque may lead to blood clots.
After a prolonged period of time, the plaques may become unstable and ‘rupture’ which means a portion of the plaque can break off and enter the bloodstream causing a blood clot. Atherosclerosis may lead to reduced oxygen flow within the circulatory system, as well as the hardening of blood vessels and arteries. Atherosclerosis may lead to coronary artery disease, peripheral artery disease, aneurysms and chronic kidney disease.
There is a connection between high cholesterol and risk of heart attack.
The blood supply to the heart muscle, which is required for effective functioning of the heart, is called the coronary circulation. Heart attack refers to the sudden blockage of a blood vessel which supplies blood and therefore oxygen to the heart muscle. This can occur due to a clot or a build up of atherosclerotic plaque blocking the coronary circulation.
Heart attacks are also known as acute coronary syndrome or myocardial infarction. In simpler terms, a heart attack occurs when the arteries in your heart suddenly become blocked, this condition is also known as coronary thrombosis.
High cholesterol over a prolonged period of time may play a role in one’s risk of experiencing a heart attack.
There is a connection between high cholesterol and risk of stroke.
Stroke refers to a condition in which sufficient blood flow cannot reach the brain, this may lead to cell death. 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 cholesterol is a risk factor for stroke due to blockages that may block blood flow to parts of the brain.
High Blood Pressure
There is a connection between high cholesterol and high blood pressure.
High blood pressure, which is also known as hypertension is a condition that occurs pressure in the arteries is higher than it should be, and the body can struggle to pump blood all around the body.
Most people with high blood pressure will not experience any symptoms.
High blood pressure and high cholesterol are interlinked because the build up of atherosclerotic plaques in the arteries may make it more difficult for blood to be pumped all around the body.
Type 2 diabetes
There is a connection between high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes.
High cholesterol is common among those with type 2 diabetes. It has been shown that increased blood sugar may lead to high levels of triglycerides in the body, and lower HDL cholesterol (good cholesterol).
It is important to keep an eye on your cholesterol levels if you have type 2 diabetes, to ensure you are doing as much as you can, and you are 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.
Written by Hannah Kingston | Medically Reviewed by Dr. Susan O’ Sullivan