Excessive Cholesterol Levels: Here are the 7 Signs to Watch For

Written by Henrik Rothen

Dec.07 - 2023 12:43 PM CET

Photo: Shutterstock.com
Photo: Shutterstock.com
Here are the 7 Signs to Watch For.

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Excess cholesterol can have dramatic health consequences. While cholesterol levels are measured through a blood test, various symptoms can help identify it. Here's an overview of the different symptoms of cholesterol.

Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by our body and present in our diet. It is an essential element for the structure of cell membranes and the synthesis of many hormones. However, a high level of cholesterol in the blood is a common disorder that can impair our health.

Although hypercholesterolemia often causes no symptoms, there are certain signs that can alert you. It is therefore possible to pay attention to your body and monitor for warning signs.

  1. What are the symptoms of LDL cholesterol? Chest pains Commonly known as "bad cholesterol," LDL cholesterol can cause chest pain. This symptom is due to the accumulation of fats in the arteries that supply the heart. These fatty deposits form plaques that tend to obstruct and damage the arteries. The resulting lack of oxygen can then cause chest pain in some cases, known as angina. Although excess cholesterol can typically cause angina pectoris or angina, it also increases the risk of heart attack or stroke. Usually, angina pectoris is characterized by pain located at the level of the sternum, lasting a few minutes. In some individuals, such as the elderly or diabetic patients, this symptom of excess cholesterol may be completely silent. In other cases, chest pain may radiate to the shoulders, jaw, or left side.

  2. Calf pain: what is arteriopathy? When fatty plaques associated with bad cholesterol accumulate in the arteries of the lower limbs, pain similar to muscle cramps can be felt. This phenomenon results from atherosclerosis, a narrowing of the blood vessels, thus reducing oxygen supply to the muscles. The symptoms of arteriopathy caused by the formation of these fatty masses appear progressively and cause ischemia of the muscles of the lower limb starting at the extremities. Depending on where the arterial obstruction is located, excess cholesterol can also lead to erectile dysfunction.

  3. Beware of phantosmia, these olfactory hallucinations According to a study conducted in the United States and published in 2020 in the medical journal Laryngoscope, excess cholesterol could be the cause of olfactory hallucinations. Indeed, researchers at the National Institutes of Health in Maryland have shown that there is a link between the perception of certain odors and a high level of cholesterol.

    Among the ghost odors described by participants, generally, unpleasant or foul odors are observed, as well as a burnt or smoky smell. This condition, known as phantosmia, can be temporary or, on the contrary, become chronic.

  4. Do you notice yellow bumps around your eyes? It could be cholesterol deposits Vision problems can reveal hypercholesterolemia. Additionally, an excess of cholesterol can lead to xanthelasmas, yellow bumps caused by cholesterol deposits. These spots are primarily located near the eyes or nose. While this phenomenon does not impair vision, it is a frequent ocular symptom of excessively high cholesterol levels. Finally, excess cholesterol can cause occlusion of the retinal vein.

  5. Tingling and a sensation of cold at the extremities: can cholesterol cause ulcers? An excess of bad cholesterol can promote the development of ulcers or skin lesions. Thus, a tingling sensation or coldness in the legs or feet could be due to hypercholesterolemia. Pain or tingling in the hands can be an early sign. It is common for these discomforts to affect the feet. Generally, these pains occur at night or when the legs are elevated. However, these uncomfortable sensations tend to become more persistent over time.

  6. Can cholesterol cause neurological disorders? Watch for vision problems and dizziness Just like cardiac disorders, excess cholesterol can lead to neurological disorders. Indeed, the damage to arteries by fatty deposits can sometimes manifest as difficulties in speech, balance, or walking. Among the neurological disorders caused by hypercholesterolemia, vision problems or dizziness are also noted. However, since these signs could indicate a more serious condition, it is advisable to consult a doctor quickly in case of doubt.

  7. Are sleep disturbances or drowsiness signs of bad cholesterol? A lack of sleep contributes to bad cholesterol. Conversely, it has been demonstrated that hypercholesterolemia promotes sleep disorders. Insomnia or drowsiness could then result from a high level of bad cholesterol in the blood.

Sources: Pubmed, Inserm.