There aren’t many obvious red flags when it comes to having high cholesterol levels. If left untreated, this treatable condition can cause a myriad of medical problems. The most serious issue for those with high cholesterol is an increased risk of strokes and heart disease. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention report that almost 94 million U.S. adults have high cholesterol.
What Is High Cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a substance found naturally in the body that aids with digestion, hormone production, and other functions. It comes in two forms: HDL (high-density lipoprotein) and LDL (low-density lipoprotein). Having an abundance of LDL, the bad cholesterol, in the blood is the concern of having high cholesterol. HDL, the good cholesterol, helps to remove excess cholesterol by carrying it to the liver, where it is broken down and eliminated from the body.
When referring to having high cholesterol, this means that there’s too much LDL in the blood. When there’s too much of this bad cholesterol in the bloodstream, it can build up in the arteries as plaque. This can cause strokes, blood flow issues such as atherosclerosis, and other conditions.
Signs of High Cholesterol
High cholesterol usually doesn’t give any warning signs and can cause minor issues until there’s a medical emergency. To keep your risks low, maintain a healthy lifestyle with proper diet and exercise.
There are, however, a few symptoms of having high cholesterol. These early signs include:
- Swollen lower legs and ankles
- Swollen feet or hands
- Calf or thigh pain
- Soft yellow growths on the skin
- A burning sensation in the upper abdomen after eating fatty food
Talk to a Healthcare Professional About Cholesterol Levels
The best way to monitor cholesterol levels is to have your doctor schedule annual blood tests. Since there are no obvious red flags for high cholesterol, it’s vital to get tested. Once armed with the knowledge that your cholesterol levels are high, you can develop a plan with your doctor to bring them down to healthy levels.