Symptoms of high cholesterol: What should you know?


High cholesterol, also known as Hypercholesterolemia, is a condition characterized by an elevated level of cholesterol in the blood above the normal range, which is typically 200 milligrams per deciliter.

Although cholesterol is a natural fat in the blood; excessively high levels can lead to severe complications, therefore, it is essential to recognize the symptoms of high cholesterol and the groups more susceptible to its development, in the following article, we will discuss these details:

What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?

High cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms in the affected individual, and the only reliable and definitive way to confirm high cholesterol is through a laboratory test. 

Indeed, in some cases, severe high cholesterol can lead to the appearance of specific symptoms in some individuals. Here are the main symptoms of severe high cholesterol: 

  • The appearance of yellowish bumps on the skin results from cholesterol accumulation, especially in the joints of the hands or knees. This condition is known as Tendon Xanthomata.
  • The appearance of yellowish plaques (Xanthelasmas) filled with cholesterol near the inner corner of the eye.
  • The occurrence of sexual weakness or impotence in men due to the adverse effects of severely high cholesterol on the arteries.
  • The appearance of pale or grayish-white rings around the iris of the eye, known as Corneal Arcus.

What are the symptoms of complications resulting from high cholesterol?

As mentioned earlier, most people with high cholesterol do not experience apparent symptoms; however, over time, the cholesterol level in the blood may excessively increase (i.e., above 240 milligrams per deciliter); causing an increased risk of developing certain health conditions accompanied by the appearance of symptoms.

In the following paragraphs, we will explain the main complications resulting from high cholesterol and the accompanying symptoms:


1- Coronary Artery Disease

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD) is a heart condition caused by the buildup of fats in the major arteries that supply blood to the heart, narrowing them.

Usually, Coronary Artery Disease causes many symptoms that differ between genders, and the following are the most common ones:

    • Chest pain.
    • Nausea.
    • Severe fatigue.
    • Shortness of breath.
    • Pain in the neck, jaw, back, or upper abdomen.

2- Heart attack

A heart attack happens when a buildup of fats, cholesterol, and other substances in the arteries that carry blood to the heart, leading to a complete blockage or a significant reduction in blood flow through these arteries. Usually, the following symptoms accompany a heart attack:

    • The feeling of tightness or pain in the chest and arms.
    • Difficulty breathing.
    • The feeling of anxiety.
    • Dizziness.
    • Digestive issues such as nausea, indigestion, or heartburn.
    • Excessive fatigue.

3- Stroke

A stroke is one of the complications of high cholesterol in the blood, which occurs due to the buildup of fats and cholesterol in one of the arteries that supply blood to the brain, leading to the blockage or narrowing of these arteries.

Usually, it is accompanied by many symptoms, such as:

    • Sudden loss of balance.
    • Sudden dizziness.
    • Loss of facial coordination manifested as drooping of one side of the eyelid and mouth.
    • Inability to move one side of the body only.
    • Difficulty speaking and unclear speech.
    • Numbness in one side of the face, arm, or leg.
    • Blurred vision or double vision.
    • Sudden severe headache.
    • Confusion.

4- Peripheral Arterial Disease

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD) is caused by the accumulation of fats and cholesterol in the arteries that supply blood and oxygen to the legs, arms, kidneys, or stomach, leading to their blockage and the appearance of specific symptoms, the most prominent symptoms include:

    • Muscle cramping in the affected limb.
    • Pain and fatigue in the affected limb.
    • Leg pain during exercise or performing various activities.
    • A feeling of discomfort in the feet.

It is worth mentioning that the above symptoms are early signs of the disease, which may occur more frequently as the condition progresses, or other severe symptoms may also manifest.

When should a blood cholesterol test be conducted?

As we mentioned earlier, the symptoms of high cholesterol are not apparent, and the only reliable way to confirm elevated levels is by conducting a blood cholesterol test, but when should the test be done?

The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends the following guidelines for cholesterol testing based on age:

  • Age 9 – 11 years: Cholesterol screening should be conducted for the first time and repeated every 5 years.
  • Men aged 45 – 65 and women aged 55 – 65: Cholesterol testing should be performed every 1 to 2 years.
  • Over 65 years of age: Cholesterol testing should be done annually.


Also, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) recommend adults undergo cholesterol blood testing once every 4 – 6 years.

It is worth mentioning that the doctor may recommend increasing the frequency of cholesterol testing in the following cases:

  • The cholesterol test results were not within normal levels.
  • Having a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease.
  • Having heart disease, diabetes, or high blood pressure.

Who are the people most susceptible to high blood cholesterol?

Because the symptoms of high cholesterol are not apparent, it is recommended to conduct regular early detection tests for the groups most susceptible to high blood cholesterol, which include:

  • Men over the age of 40.
  • Women over the age of 50, or in the menopausal stage.
  • Individuals with diabetes.
  • Individuals with high blood pressure.
  • Smokers.
  • Those with a family history of heart disease or stroke.
  • Individuals exhibited physical symptoms of high cholesterol, such as fatty deposits under the skin.
  • Those with accumulated fat in the abdominal area.
  • Evidence of coronary artery disease or other cardiovascular conditions with or without symptoms; examples of cardiovascular diseases include: kidney disease, peripheral artery disease, or aneurysms.

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