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Side Effects of "Way Too High Cholesterol"

Expert shares what can happen if your cholesterol is too high. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

We need cholesterol for our overall health, but too much is a bad thing. High cholesterol can cause major health problems and is called a silent killer because there's often no warning signs. While high cholesterol can be inherited, lifestyle choices like poor diet, lack of exercise and smoking can increase the risk. Dr. Bayo Curry-Winchell, Urgent Care Medical Director and Physician, Carbon Health and Saint Mary's Hospital explains the difference between good and bad cholesterol and how it can affect your health. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


What's the Difference Between Good and Bad Cholesterol?

HDL cholesterol

Dr. Curry-Winchell says, "The 'good' cholesterol helps protect vital organs such as your heart from a stroke or heart attack by carrying the unhealthy "bad" cholesterol to the liver. This process ultimately helps decrease the amount of cholesterol (also referred to as plaque) from settling within the walls of your blood vessels. The "good" cholesterol is vital in helping to reduce your risk for a cardiac event."


Why is this Important?


Dr. Curry-Winchell shares, "It's important to remember your liver naturally makes enough cholesterol for your body. Extra cholesterol comes from the food you eat. The excess amount is referred to as 'bad' cholesterol. The "extra" can build up in the walls of your arteries. It's referred to as atherosclerosis, a reduction or blockage that causes narrowing of the blood vessels impacting blood flow to the heart."


What's Considered High Cholesterol and Who is at Risk?

Cholesterol test

According to Dr. Curry-Winchell, "You are considered to have high cholesterol if your total cholesterol (which includes your LDL 'bad' and HDL 'good') is over 200. The goal is to have less than 100 mg/dL of 'bad' LDL cholesterol and more than 40 mg/dL of the 'good' HDL cholesterol."


Heart Attack/Stroke

older man experiencing chest pain, heart attack

Dr. Curry-Winchell explains, "A heart attack or stroke also referred to as a myocardial infarction or cerebrovascular accident can be a result from excess cholesterol within the arteries that have decreased or blocked arteries from transporting blood to the heart. A cardiac event from high cholesterol can be life altering."


Chest Pain

woman holding heart

"As cholesterol builds up within your vessels it decreases the amount of blood allowed to flow to your heart," Dr. Curry-Winchell says. "This leads to less blood flow and oxygen delivered to the heart which ultimately causes more stress on the heart and pain in the chest often referred to as angina."


Stomach Pain

stomach problems

Dr. Curry-Winchell states, "Too much cholesterol can cause gallstones to form. A pain that is linked to intermittent stomach pain, nausea, and vomiting."


No Symptoms

two female friends eating outdoors
Shutterstock / Vadim Martynenko

"It is important to know that high cholesterol can be a silent disease," Dr. Curry-Winchell emphasizes. "You may not have any symptoms. The only way to know if you have high cholesterol is to get screened. A blood test and talking to your health care provider will allow you to know your risks of a cardiac event."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather