Cholesterol Symptoms and Signs
There are generally no symptoms of high LDL cholesterol. Many people have never had their cholesterol checked, so they don’t know if they are at risk. A simple blood test can tell you your cholesterol levels. There are steps you can take to prevent or manage high LDL cholesterol—or to reduce your levels if they are too high.
There are generally no symptoms of high LDL cholesterol. A simple blood test called a lipid profile can tell you your cholesterol levels.
Nonetheless, it’s important to understand the symptoms of the major complications of the common type of high cholesterol so that you can receive prompt treatment.
High cholesterol is often called “the silent killer” because for most people there are no obvious signs and symptoms to look out for.
Coronary Artery (Heart) Disease
Symptoms of heart disease may be different for men or women. However, coronary heart disease remains the number one killer of both genders in the United States. The most common symptoms include:
- Angina – caused by the narrowing of one or more arteries that feed the heart.
- Heart attack – caused by a blockage in one of the arteries that feed the heart.
- Stroke – caused by a blockage in one of the arteries in the neck or brain.
- Pain on walking – caused by a blockage to an artery that feeds the leg muscles.
These symptoms point to the presence of established heart and circulatory disease.
The buildup of plaque caused by having high cholesterol can put you at serious risk of having an event in which the blood supply to an important part of your brain is suddenly cut off. A stroke occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is cut off or reduced. The brain is then deprived of oxygen, and death of that brain tissue occurs quickly if blood supply is not restored very quickly.
A stroke is a medical emergency. It’s important to act fast and seek medical treatment if you or anyone you know experiences the symptoms of a stroke.
Signs of a stroke include:
- sudden loss of balance and coordination
- sudden dizziness
- facial asymmetry (drooping eyelid and mouth on just one side)
- inability to move, particularly affecting just one side of the body
- slurring words
- numbness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
- blurred vision, blackened vision, or double vision
- sudden severe headache
The arteries that supply the heart with blood can slowly narrow due to the buildup of plaque. This process, called atherosclerosis, happens slowly over time and has no symptoms. Eventually, a piece of the plaque can break off. When this happens, a blood clot forms around the plaque and can block blood flow to the heart muscle, depriving it of oxygen and nutrients. This deprivation is called ischemia. When the heart becomes damaged or part of the heart begins to die due to the lack of oxygen, it’s called a heart attack. The medical term for a heart attack is myocardial infarction.
Other signs to look out for
HEART UK believes that people should be aware of their risk from cholesterol. There are some things that make it more likely you have unhealthy cholesterol levels. These are:
- A mum, dad, brother, sister or child with high cholesterol.
- A mum, dad, brother or sister who have had a heart attack or angina before the age
of 50 (man) or 60 (woman).
- Being a type 2 diabetic.
- Having a diet high in animal/saturated fat.
- Being physically inactive.
- Fatty deposits on your eyelids or a white ring around the iris of the eye.
Not everyone with these signs will have high cholesterol. To help prevent cardiovascular (heart and circulatory) disease anyone over the age of 40 should have their cholesterol tested every 5 years. Your GP should invite you to an NHS Health Check, where a cholesterol test and other checks will help determine your risk of having a heart attack or stroke in the coming years. They will also look for sign of diabetes and kidney disease.
Other risk factors
It is important to remember that high cholesterol is only one risk factor. Your risk of cardiovascular disease increases if you have additional risk factors such as:
1 – you are older
2 – you are of South Asian decent
3 – you have a family history of early heart disease
4 – you are a smoker
5 – you have type 2 diabetes
6 – you are overweight or obese, especially if you are apple shaped.