Silent Symptoms of High Cholesterol You Need to Know
High cholesterol is called a silent killer because there's often no symptoms that indicate there's a problem. Dr. Eric Tam, Physician at Mighty Health tells us, "The dangerous news is that high cholesterol alone does not directly show signs or symptoms. Rather, when symptoms present, it is actually due to having high cholesterol over too long of a period of time." That said, there are a few warning signs to be aware of and Eat This, Not That! Health spoke with experts who reveal what they are. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.
The Difference Between Good and Bad Cholesterol
Dr. Tam explains, "High cholesterol is commonly defined by having total cholesterol levels above 200 mg/dL; but this is not actually the full picture. It's important to then break this value down to your low density lipoprotein (also known as "bad cholesterol") and your high density lipoproteins ("good cholesterol"). High levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL), or "bad cholesterol," have been associated with an increased risk of atherosclerosis, potentially leading to several other conditions such as coronary artery disease, stroke, and peripheral arterial disease. It does so by accumulating in your blood vessel walls, subsequently forming plaque that can put you at higher risk for strokes and heart attacks by causing blockages in these blood vessels. High-density lipoproteins (HDL), or "good cholesterol," helps clear cholesterol by bringing it to the liver to get processed."
How High Cholesterol Affects Seniors
Nancy Mitchell, a Registered Nurse with Assisted Living Center shares, "The symptoms of high cholesterol are often silent or easy to miss, and although cholesterol production does slow down as we age, high levels are often problematic for older adults. High levels of LDL increase the chances of heart disease and other complications from poor blood flow to the heart, so regular checks for those over 65 are often recommended."
Why High Cholesterol is so Dangerous
Mitchell says, "High cholesterol is dangerous because it indicates the likelihood that blood flow is reduced, which in turn makes the chances of heart attack and heart disease more likely."
Dr. Edward Salko, Board-Certified Physician, Medical Director of PersonaLabs adds, "It is quite clear that increased LDLs have a direct effect on the risk of acquiring cardiovascular diseases, atherosclerosis, stroke, etc., as it indicates a higher build-up of cholesterol in the arteries."
Pre-Indicators of High Cholesterol
Dr. Salko states, "While there may be no clear symptoms, there are pre-indicators of high cholesterol. Poor diet and a sedentary lifestyle may limit fat metabolism, and increase blood cholesterol. Age also plays a role, because the older we get, the less functional our liver becomes leading to lesser cholesterol being excreted from the body."
How to Test for High Cholesterol
Trista Best, MPH, RD, LD says, "It is generally agreed upon by professionals that there are no signs or symptoms of high cholesterol. Blood tests should start early in life, as early as 10 years old, to check cholesterol levels. These tests should be repeated regularly throughout life and high cholesterol should be addressed to prevent heart disease."
Dr. Tam shares, "Over time, a poor diet can lead to high cholesterol, which can cause the development of plaque in our coronary arteries—the arteries that supply oxygen and nutrients to the heart. This can then eventually lead to what we call a heart attack. So, if you're noticing chest pressure at rest or with exercise, visit your cardiologist for further testing to evaluate if you have plaque buildup in these arteries."
Sudden Weakness or Difficulty Finding Words that Resolve with Time
According to Dr. Tam, "High cholesterol can create a temporary blockage of blood vessels in the brain, causing stroke symptoms that thankfully resolve with time. However, if you're experiencing sudden weakness or having difficulty finding the right words, go to the emergency room to get evaluated so specialists can do further imaging studies and testing to confirm the cause."
Complete Loss of Strength or Persistent Weakness in Specific Parts of the Body
Dr. Tam reveals, "As physicians, our biggest fear is when a patient suffers a full-on stroke. This requires emergency hospitalization as this is due to complete blockage of certain blood vessels in the brain, causing damage to that local area that controls certain functions of your body."
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