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Signs and Symptoms

Many people don’t know that they have high levels of harmful cholesterol. That’s because there are usually no signs or symptoms associated with an early buildup of fatty plaques in the arteries.

Plaque is made up of cholesterol and fatty substances. It’s not until there may be a large blockage of the artery that you might notice something is wrong. For example, you may have chest pain, pain in the arms or jaw, nausea, sweating, shortness of breath, or weakness. These usually occur when the blood supply to the heart or brain is being slowed or blocked.

Unfortunately, these blockages can rupture and cause major problems, even when they are much smaller and don't yet cause any early symptoms. That is why, for some people, the first sign of elevated cholesterol may be a heart attack or stroke.

So – even if you’re feeling fine – it’s a good idea to get your cholesterol checked.

Your care team will consider your cholesterol numbers along with any other factors that make heart disease or stroke more likely to occur, such as your age, family history, if you have diabetes or  high blood pressure, or if you smoke. 

High Cholesterol Can Run in Families
Some people are born with a condition called familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH, leaving them with dangerously high levels of LDL or the “bad” type of cholesterol.

Such high levels of LDL cholesterol in the blood from such a young age puts people with FH at very high risk of heart disease, having a heart attack or stroke, or dying in the prime of their lives – often with no warning.

FH is passed down in families. For more information about FH, visit CardioSmart.org/FH.
  • Last Edited 08/25/2023