There aren’t any general symptoms of high cholesterol in otherwise healthy individuals, which is why the condition is sometimes identified as a silent killer. In fact, most people are unaware of high levels until such is detected in a medical examination. Undetected and, therefore, untreated, the first symptoms of high cholesterol are often realized as problems with the pancreas, as heart disease or even as a heart attack.
Cholesterol is a waxy fat substance that is produced in the liver, contains antioxidants and is considered good for the heart. This type is also referred to as high-density lipoproteins, or HDL. Cholesterol that isn’t produced in the human liver enters the body by ingesting animal fats found in meat and dairy products, too much of which is considered bad for the heart and is referred to as low-density lipoproteins, or LDL. While the symptoms of high cholesterol may be undetectable, a person’s lifestyle is a good indicator of whether LDL levels may be a problem. Individuals who eat a high cholesterol diet, who do not exercise and who do not regularly check their cholesterol levels may have high LDL levels whether physical symptoms of high cholesterol are present or not.
Besides diet and exercise, other risk factors contributing to the development of high cholesterol include age, obesity, a family history of elevated cholesterol levels, cigarette smoking, taking certain medications and the presence of other underlying disease, such as diabetes. Even without distinct physical symptoms of high cholesterol, a person with one or more of these contributors is likely to also have excessive bad cholesterol levels. In the United States, it is estimated that more than half of all Americans have unhealthy cholesterol levels.
Without examination and early detection, when the physical symptoms of high cholesterol do begin to impact a person’s life, one of the first signs is usually chest pain known as angina. This condition is a direct result of cholesterol lining the arteries, narrowing passageways and constricting blood flow. While angina is a serious condition, it is not a heart attack. Other symptoms of high cholesterol, however, can result in a heart attack or heart disease that may one day lead to heart failure.
The symptoms of high cholesterol may also produce pancreatitis, which is inflammation of the pancreas. Symptoms associated with this condition include pain, fever, nausea and vomiting. Individuals with a lipid disorder may also realize physical high cholesterol symptoms. When this occurs, the most noted symptoms are cholesterol deposits being stored in the skin, which is noticeable primarily in the tendons located in the feet and hands.