Cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that is found throughout the body. Although it is essential for the proper functioning of the body, an excess of cholesterol circulating in the blood can increase the risk of various health problems, including heart disease, stroke, and peripheral artery disease.
In this article, we will discuss the symptoms and health risks associated with high cholesterol. We will also explore the common risk factors and provide recommendations for managing high cholesterol effectively.
The Top 10 Symptoms of High Cholesterol You Need to Know About
The following are the top 10 symptoms of high cholesterol:
Chest pain or discomfort
Chest pain or discomfort, commonly known as angina, is a classic symptom of high cholesterol. This occurs due to the accumulation of cholesterol plaque in the arteries that supply the heart muscles with oxygenated blood, leading to decreased blood flow.
Shortness of breath
Shortness of breath is another symptom that may indicate high cholesterol levels. The decreased blood flow caused by cholesterol plaque buildup can affect the oxygenation process in the lungs and lead to difficulty breathing.
Numbness or tingling in extremities
Sometimes, high cholesterol can cause numbness or tingling sensations in the extremities such as hands and feet. This occurs due to the narrowing and hardening of arteries that supply blood to the limbs.
Headaches or dizziness
People with high cholesterol may experience frequent headaches or dizziness due to restricted blood flow to the brain caused by cholesterol plaque buildup in the arteries.
Swollen ankles or feet
High cholesterol can also cause swelling in the ankles or feet due to the accumulation of fluid. This may occur due to inadequate circulation caused by cholesterol buildup in the blood vessels.
Xanthomas (small, yellowish bumps on the skin)
Xanthomas are small, yellowish bumps that develop on the skin of people with high cholesterol. These bumps are usually seen on the elbows, knees, buttocks, and eyelids and are caused by the accumulation of cholesterol deposits under the skin.
Xanthelasmas (yellowish patches on eyelids)
Xanthelasmas are yellowish patches that form on the eyelids due to high cholesterol levels. These patches are usually harmless but may indicate the presence of cholesterol in the blood vessels.
Arcus senilis (white or gray ring around iris)
Arcus senilis is a white or gray ring-like discoloration that forms around the iris of the eye. This ring is caused by cholesterol accumulation in the cornea and is often a sign of high cholesterol.
Erectile dysfunction in men
Men with high cholesterol may experience erectile dysfunction due to decreased blood flow to the penis caused by cholesterol plaque buildup in the arteries.
Memory loss or confusion
High cholesterol levels can affect cognitive function and cause memory loss or confusion. This occurs due to restricted blood flow to the brain, which can cause brain damage or inflammation.
Are You at Risk for High Cholesterol? Look for These Tell-Tale Signs
The following are the common risk factors for high cholesterol:
Family history of high cholesterol or heart disease
If someone in your family has a history of high cholesterol or heart disease, you may be at risk of developing the condition.
Unhealthy diet high in saturated and trans fats
A diet comprised of high levels of saturated and trans fats can lead to elevated cholesterol levels.
Living a sedentary lifestyle with minimal physical activity can also contribute to high cholesterol levels.
Smoking or exposure to secondhand smoke
Smoking and exposure to secondhand smoke can damage the arteries and lead to the accumulation of cholesterol plaque.
Obesity or excess weight
Being overweight or obese can increase the levels of LDL (bad) cholesterol and triglycerides and decrease levels of HDL (good) cholesterol.
Diabetes or metabolic syndrome
People with diabetes or metabolic syndrome may be at increased risk of developing high cholesterol levels.
Age and gender
Men over the age of 45 and women over the age of 55 are at increased risk of developing high cholesterol levels.
The Sneaky Ways High Cholesterol May be Affecting Your Health
High cholesterol can affect various vital organs and cause several health problems such as:
Increased risk for heart disease and stroke
High cholesterol levels can lead to blocked arteries and increase the risk of heart attacks and strokes.
Damage to blood vessels and organs
The accumulation of cholesterol in the blood vessels can damage the organs and lead to complications such as kidney failure.
Atherosclerosis (hardening and narrowing of arteries)
High cholesterol levels can contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, which is the hardening and narrowing of arteries that can lead to a heart attack, stroke, or peripheral artery disease.
Vision problems and blindness
High cholesterol levels can contribute to vision problems and blindness by affecting the blood flow to the eyes.
Kidney disease and failure
High cholesterol levels can contribute to kidney disease and failure by damaging the blood vessels that supply the kidneys.
Peripheral arterial disease
High cholesterol levels can contribute to peripheral arterial disease, which is a circulatory condition that affects the legs and feet.
Increased risk for dementia and Alzheimer’s disease
High cholesterol levels can also increase the risk of developing dementia and Alzheimer’s disease by causing damage to blood vessels in the brain.
Beyond Diet and Exercise: How to Recognize the Symptoms of High Cholesterol
Here are the ways to manage high cholesterol:
Regular cholesterol screenings and blood tests
Regular cholesterol screenings and blood tests are necessary to monitor your cholesterol levels and detect any changes. The American Heart Association recommends a cholesterol screening every four to six years for adults over 20 years of age.
Lifestyle changes to lower cholesterol
Lifestyle changes such as adopting a heart-healthy diet, quitting smoking, and exercising regularly can help lower cholesterol levels.
Medications to manage high cholesterol
Doctors may also prescribe medications such as statins, bile acid sequestrants, or cholesterol absorption inhibitors to manage high cholesterol levels.
Managing other health conditions that contribute to high cholesterol
Managing other health conditions such as diabetes or high blood pressure that contribute to high cholesterol levels is essential in controlling cholesterol levels.
Understanding the importance of cholesterol control for overall health
Understanding the importance of cholesterol control is crucial in leading a healthy and fulfilling life. Keeping your cholesterol levels within a healthy range can reduce your risk of developing heart disease and other complications.
Could Your Health Issues Be Caused by High Cholesterol? Learn the Warning Signs.
It is essential to discuss any symptoms you may be experiencing with your healthcare provider. They may recommend further testing or treatment options if high cholesterol levels are detected. Some of the warning signs that may be related to high cholesterol include:
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Numbness or tingling in extremities
- Shortness of breath
- Headaches or dizziness
- Swollen ankles or feet
- Xanthomas or xanthelasmas
- Erectile dysfunction in men
- Memory loss or confusion
In conclusion, high cholesterol can lead to several health problems, and recognizing the symptoms and risk factors is necessary for managing the condition effectively. Through regular checkups and incorporating lifestyle changes and medications, you can lead a healthier life and reduce the risk of complications. Take charge of your health and speak with your healthcare provider to learn more about managing high cholesterol levels.
Remember, prevention is always better than cure.