5 Important symptoms of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol is a condition where there is an excessive amount of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol is a type of fat that is essential for the body, but too much of it can be harmful. High cholesterol can lead to various health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease. In this article, we will discuss the symptoms of high cholesterol and how to manage this condition.
Before diving into the symptoms of high cholesterol, it’s essential to understand the different types of cholesterol. Cholesterol is carried through the bloodstream in small packages called lipoproteins. There are two main types of lipoproteins:
- Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): LDL cholesterol is known as the “bad” cholesterol because it can contribute to the build-up of plaque in the arteries. When there is too much LDL cholesterol in the bloodstream, it can combine with other substances in the blood to form plaque, a thick, hard deposit that can clog arteries and restrict blood flow. This build-up of plaque can lead to a condition called atherosclerosis, which is a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
- High-density lipoprotein (HDL): HDL cholesterol is known as the “good” cholesterol because it helps remove excess LDL cholesterol from the bloodstream. HDL cholesterol carries LDL cholesterol to the liver, where it can be broken down and eliminated from the body.
The build-up of plaque in the arteries is a gradual process that can take years or even decades to develop. Plaque starts to form when there is damage to the inner lining of the artery, which can be caused by factors such as high blood pressure, smoking, or high levels of LDL cholesterol. When the inner lining of the artery is damaged, LDL cholesterol can enter the artery wall and combine with other substances, such as calcium, to form plaque.
Over time, the plaque can grow and narrow the artery, reducing blood flow to the affected area. If a piece of plaque breaks off, it can form a clot that can block blood flow completely, leading to a heart attack or stroke.
Symptoms of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol doesn’t usually cause any symptoms. In most cases, people only find out they have high cholesterol after a routine blood test. However, in rare cases, high cholesterol can cause the following symptoms:
- Xanthomas: These are deposits of cholesterol that form under the skin, usually around the eyes or on the hands and feet. Xanthomas can be a sign of high cholesterol, especially if they appear in people who are not overweight.
- Tendinous xanthomas: These are cholesterol deposits that form on tendons, usually on the back of the ankle or on the fingers. Tendinous xanthomas can be a sign of a genetic condition called familial hypercholesterolemia, which causes very high cholesterol levels.
- Arcus senilis: This is a white or grey ring that appears around the edge of the cornea (the clear part of the eye). Arcus senilis is more common in older people, but it can also be a sign of high cholesterol.
- Chest pain: High cholesterol can contribute to the buildup of plaque in the arteries, which can lead to chest pain or angina. However, chest pain can also be a sign of other conditions, so it’s essential to get a proper diagnosis.
- Shortness of breath: High cholesterol can lead to blockages in the arteries that supply blood to the lungs, which can cause shortness of breath.
Related: How to lower cholesterol in 30 days
Managing High Cholesterol
If you have high cholesterol, there are several steps you can take to manage this condition:
- Change your diet: Eating a diet that is low in saturated and trans fats and high in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein can help lower cholesterol levels.
- Exercise regularly: Regular physical activity can help raise HDL cholesterol and lower LDL cholesterol.
- Quit smoking: Smoking can damage the arteries and contribute to the build-up of plaque, so quitting smoking is essential for managing high cholesterol.
- Take medication: In some cases, medication may be necessary to lower cholesterol levels, especially if lifestyle changes aren’t enough.
High cholesterol is a condition that can increase the risk of heart disease, stroke, and other health problems. While high cholesterol doesn’t usually cause any symptoms, it’s essential to get regular blood tests to monitor cholesterol levels. If you have high cholesterol, making lifestyle changes like eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and quitting smoking can help manage this condition. In some cases, medication may be necessary to lower cholesterol levels.
It’s important to maintain a healthy balance of LDL and HDL cholesterol through diet, exercise, and other lifestyle changes to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke.