How do You Know if You Have High Cholesterol


Sep 9, 2021


How do you know if you have high cholesterol? Since high cholesterol has no symptoms, the only way to tell is through a blood test looking at your lipid levels. If you think your cholesterol levels are higher than they should be, don’t wait to contact your doctor.

The buildup of plaque caused by high cholesterol can put you at risk for much more serious diseases like cardiovascular disease, peripheral arterial disease, coronary artery (heart) disease (CAD), or stroke. As frightening as that can sound, don’t panic. With the help of your doctor, you can improve your cholesterol levels through medication and/or lifestyle changes.

In this article, we will teach you how to tell if you have high cholesterol, walk you through common risk factors, and advise you on when to seek emergency treatment.

What is cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance that is vital in the body for the formation of cell membranes, certain hormones, and vitamin D. Because cholesterol is fat soluble, meaning it doesn’t dissolve in water, it needs the help of lipoproteins to travel through your bloodstream. The two major forms of lipoprotein are LDL cholesterol and HDL cholesterol.

LDL cholesterol

So, what causes high cholesterol? High levels of low density lipoproteins (LDL), also referred to as “bad cholesterol,” leads to what’s diagnosed as high cholesterol. When the level of ldl cholesterol is too high, fatty deposits can begin to build up in your blood vessels causing a cascade of other issues. This is because the increase in plaque decreases blood flow throughout your body — particularly to your heart and brain.

HDL cholesterol

Not all cholesterol is bad. High-density lipoproteins (HDL) commonly known as “good cholesterol” helps to absorb LDL cholesterol, bringing it back to the liver to be flushed from your body. High levels of HDL cholesterol can actually lower your risk for CAD, blood clots, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. 


Triglycerides are a different type of lipid than cholesterol that your body uses as a stored energy source. When you consume more food than you need, your body converts the extra into triglycerides which are then stored in your fat cells. 

If you do not use the stores and regularly consume more than you use, your triglyceride levels can become high and put you at risk for heart disease and stroke. Similarly to cholesterol, your doctor can run a blood test to ensure your levels are in a healthy range.

What are the warning signs of high cholesterol?

High cholesterol typically doesn’t have any symptoms until it is an emergency event. The only way to know if you have a high level of ldl cholesterol is through a blood test. Leaving cholesterol untreated can lead to the buildup of plaque over time, damaging the heart and putting you at risk for a heart attack or stroke. Keep an eye out for heart attack or early stroke symptoms like:

  • Nausea
  • Numbness
  • Slurred speech
  • Extreme fatigue
  • Chest pain or angina
  • Shortness of breath
  • Numbness or coldness in extremities
  • High blood pressure

If you have any concerns about the symptoms you’re experiencing, don’t wait to head into the nearest 24 hour emergency room. They can check your blood work as well as run tests to ensure there isn’t anything major going on. 

Learn what blood tests are done in the emergency room.

How do you know if you have high cholesterol without a blood test?

As previously mentioned, until you are in the midst of an emergency event or you have the results from a blood test, you cannot know you have high cholesterol. You should begin lipid testing between the ages of 9 and 11 and repeat the testing every five years until age 45 or 55 depending on your gender. 

The National Heart Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI) recommends that blood work be repeated every one to two years between the ages of 45 to 65 for men and 55 to 64 for women. If you are over the age of 65, cholesterol screenings should be completed every year.

The frequency of testing will also depend on your family history or risk factors and will be left up to the discretion of your doctor.

Risk Factors for High Cholesterol

You could be at risk of high cholesterol regardless of your age, gender, or ethnicity and if you:

  • Consume an unhealthy diet
  • Are obese or overweight
  • Lack of regular movement or exercise
  • Have a history of high cholesterol or familial hypercholesterolemia
  • Smoke tobacco products
  • Have diabetes or kidney disease

Continue reading: What to do if someone is having a heart attack

How to reduce cholesterol

If you have high cholesterol, the best way to improve your cholesterol is through a healthy lifestyle and medications if needed. Talk to your doctor to figure out what course of action is best for you.

Here are several changes you can make to help reduce your cholesterol:

  • Avoid alcohol and tobacco use
  • Eat a diet low in saturated fats and high in fiber
  • Limit processed foods, fatty red meats, egg yolk, and high-fat dairy products
  • Diet and exercise
  • Maintain a healthy weight

24/7 emergency services in Texas and Colorado Springs

How do you know if you have high cholesterol? Once again, the only way to tell if you have high cholesterol is to have your doctor run blood work. If you suspect you might have high cholesterol or notice symptoms of something more urgent like a heart attack or stroke, don’t wait to seek urgent medical attention at Complete Care.

Complete Care is a 24/7 freestanding emergency care center with ER locations in Colorado Springs and throughout Texas. We put our patients first, aiming to tend to your emergency within minutes, not hours.

For any questions regarding high cholesterol, please don’t hesitate to contact a Complete Care facility today!

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