Symptoms and Effects of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol itself does not cause symptoms, so many people are unaware that their cholesterol level is too high. What high cholesterol does do is increase your risk for developing certain medical conditions, including heart disease or having a heart attack.
Too much cholesterol in the blood can be serious. But the effects of high cholesterol do not occur after days or weeks or even months. High cholesterol levels cause these serious problems over many years.
The effects of high cholesterol are due to a condition called atherosclerosis, which is narrowing and hardening of arteries. Because atherosclerosis can affect any blood vessel in the body, the effects of high cholesterol due to atherosclerosis include:
- Coronary heart disease
- Heart arrhythmias (an irregular heart rhythm)
- Transient ischemic attack (TIA, or "mini-stroke")
- Heart attack
- Peripheral artery disease
- High blood pressure.
Testing for High Cholesterol
The only way to find out if you have high cholesterol is to have a blood cholesterol test. According to recent guidelines, a person should get a fasting cholesterol test every five years. People with risk factors for heart disease should get a cholesterol test more frequently.
Currently, there are several types of cholesterol tests available. Each test examines different components of cholesterol and fats in the blood, including:
- Total cholesterol
- Low density lipoprotein (LDL) -- this is the "bad" cholesterol
- High density lipoprotein (HDL) -- this is the "good" cholesterol
Some cholesterol tests -- such as a lipid profile done at the doctor's office -- will look at all four components. Other tests (like most home cholesterol tests) only look at total cholesterol. Some cholesterol tests also provide a cholesterol ratio or VLDL (very low density lipoprotein) as part of their results.