What is High Cholesterol? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment

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High cholesterol can lead to emergency events and serious health issues such as strokes, heart attacks, and other complications.

Nowadays, high cholesterol is one of the most urgent risk factors that can affect human well-being. Often the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, high levels of cholesterol in our body can result in undesirable consequences such as obesity, strokes, heart diseases, and even heart attacks.

According to WHO, more than one out of every 10 Americans has high cholesterol, which is responsible for 4.4 million deaths yearly.

What is High Cholesterol? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment WLADIMIR BULGAR/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

If you care about your health, read on to understand the symptoms and causes of high cholesterol, and how to minimize its impact.

What is high cholesterol?

According to Healthline, cholesterol is a waxy, fat-like substance that can be found in your blood. It is a vital factor in the effective build-up of your body's cell membranes, vitamin D, and other hormones (including sex hormones).

In order to reach different parts of our body, cholesterol is transported through the bloodstream with the help of particles known as lipoproteins - a combination of lipids and proteins that’s able to travel through your blood. Lipoproteins are then divided into LDL (low-density) cholesterol, which is bad, and HDL (high-density) cholesterol, which is good.

What is High Cholesterol? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment KATERYNA KON/SCIENCE PHOTO LIBRARY

Normally, your liver can deal with a sufficient amount of cholesterol to support your body's needs. However, excessive levels of cholesterol circulating in your blood can pose a problem to your health.

What are the effects of high cholesterol?

Having extra cholesterol in your blood can cause a wide range of health problems.

According to Heart, people with high cholesterol face a higher risk of coronary artery disease, a type of heart disease. Furthermore, high level of cholesterol can also block the blood supply to your brain, leading to a stroke.

If high cholesterol is left untreated, it can lead to a higher risk or complications including obesity, cardiovascular disease, diabetes, and high blood pressure. These are the world's top-killers, so excessive levels of cholesterol is really bad for your health.

What are the symptoms of high cholesterol?

Unfortunately, high cholesterol typically doesn't cause any specific symptoms. Only when emergency events occur do patients are alerted about their increased level of cholesterol.

According to Mayo Clinic, a blood test, which measures your total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and LDL cholesterol, is the only way to determine whether your cholesterol is too high.

Signs of high cholesterol on face

In rare circumstances, high cholesterol levels may be recognized by looking at facial symptoms. These include the following:


According to Medical News Today, xanthomas are firm, waxy skin lesions that present as small bumps or benign tumors that will swell over time. These are the results of the increasing build-up of cholesterol under the skin.

In most of the cases, xanthomas affect the areas on the upper and lower eyelids, and these are called xanthelasmas.

Corneal arcus

Additionally, high cholesterol may present as a grayish-white ring around the cornea of the eye, which is scientifically known as a corneal arcus.

What is High Cholesterol? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Peter Cade

When patients develop a corneal arcus, they are likely to be suffering from alarmingly high levels of cholesterol.

Lichen Planus

According to Healthline, Lichen planus (LP) is a condition that causes an itchy rash on the skin or inside the mouth. Many research have indicated the link between lichen planus to high lipid levels, which are the result of high cholesterol.

Common symptoms of lichen planus include itchy red bumps that appear on various parts of the body, including the writsts, arms, back, ankles, and the face.

What are the causes of high cholesterol?

According to Cleveland Clinic, high cholesterol may be the result of an unhealthy lifestyle, inactivity, obesity, and unhealthy diet. These include:

  • Diet: Eating food high in saturated fats, such as fast food, fatty meat, snacks, chocolate, toffee, cakes, puddings and biscuits.
  • Lifestyle: Detrimental habits such as smoking, stress, lack of physical activity, drinking alcohol and other addictive substances in excess.

However, factors beyond your control may also increase the risk of having high cholesterol. People with certain medical conditions, including diabetes, chronic kidney disease, obesity, and sleep apnea, run higher risk of having high cholesterol.

Treatment and management

Applying a healthy lifestyle will significantly reduce your cholesterol and prevent you from having it in the first place, thus minimizing the risk of contracting serious complications. To lower cholesterol, you can:

What is High Cholesterol? Symptoms, Causes, and Treatment Photo by Cathy Scola
  • Eat a nutrition-rich diet that include fruits, vegetables, and whole grains. Avoid food high in saturated fats and replace them with food high in unsaturated fats such as avocados, olives, nuts, seeds, and fatty fish.
  • Maintain a healthy weight by exercising on a regular basis. Remember to avoid sitting or lying on bed for too long.
  • Quit smoking and other toxic, addictive substances such as alcohols.

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