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, fat and other substances. It’s not until there may be a significant blockage of the artery that someone might notice something is wrong. For example, they may have chest pain, pain in the arms or jaw, nausea, sweating, or shortness of breath—these usually occur when the blood supply to the heart is being slowed or blocked.
Unfortunately, these blockages can rupture and cause major problems, even when they are much smaller and without causing 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 good—it’s a good idea to get your cholesterol checked. Your doctor will consider your cholesterol numbers along with any other factors that make heart disease or stroke more likely to occur, such as your age, if you have diabetes or high blood pressure, of if you smoke.
Elevated levels of LDL cholesterol can: