What are the symptoms of high cholesterol? It may surprise you that most often there are no symptoms. But if you ignore high cholesterol levels in the blood, it may eventually lead to atherosclerosis, a disease of the arteries in which fatty material is deposited in the vessel wall, resulting in narrowing and eventual impairment of blood flow.
You can check for high cholesterol by having a simple blood test taken after having fasted for several hours. The ideal blood cholesterol level is less than 5mmol/L. Levels between 5 and 6.4mmol/L is considered mildly high while between 6.5 and 7.8mmol/L is considered moderately high. Anything level higher than 7.8mmol/L is considered very high.
There are factors that can put you at risk for high cholesterol. They include heredity, diet, lifestyle and certain medications. Though less common, illnesses affecting the liver, thyroid, or kidney may affect blood cholesterol levels.
Your genes may influence how the body metabolizes LDL (bad) cholesterol. Familial hypercholesterolemia is an inherited form of high cholesterol that may lead to early heart disease.
Lifestyle choices can contribute to having high cholesterol. The foods that we eat contribute to how much cholesterol we put into our bodies. Fast foods, greasy foods, cheese, milk, eggs and fatty meats all contain high levels of cholesterol. Any food that contains high levels of saturated fats adds cholesterol to your body. These foods are not only unhealthy but they also cause us to become overweight. Once a person is overweight, their body will store more fat and also more cholesterol.
People who lead a sedentary lifestyle (do not exercise) may have higher levels of cholesterol as well. Another contributing factor is smoking. Several studies have also shown that stress can raise blood cholesterol levels over the long term.
The risk for high cholesterol increases with age. High cholesterol is more common in men younger than 55 years and in women older than 55 years.
If you have a family history of high cholesterol you may be at a greater risk as well. You should let your doctor know if other members of your family suffer from high cholesterol.
Although there are many lifestyle factors that contribute to high cholesterol, some people who eat well and exercise may suffer from high cholesterol naturally. If your body produces too much cholesterol on its own, you could still have high cholesterol and not know it.
While high cholesterol level is not desirable, it is not an absolute indicator of cardiovascular disease. As well as this figure, doctors normally take into account other factors such as the ratio between good and bad cholesterol and the presence of other risk factors such as smoking, diabetes and high blood pressure.
It is possible for someone to have a high level of total cholesterol and still have a relatively low cardiovascular risk because of an absence of other risk factors or because their family history is free from coronary disease.
However anyone with an established track record of cardiovascular disease such as angina (chest pain), a previous heart attack, coronary angioplasty or coronary bypass surgery should try to keep their total cholesterol level below 5mmol/l or their LDL below 3mmol/l.