Like HowStuffWorks on Facebook!

What are the common symptoms of high cholesterol?


High cholesterol produces no symptoms on its own. It's not actually a disease. It's simply the condition of having excess cholesterol in your blood. But over time it can lead to the disease atherosclerosis. This, in turn, can lead to heart disease, heart attack, stroke, and circulation problems called peripheral vascular disease.

Does Atherosclerosis Cause Symptoms?

Atherosclerosis is a gradual process in which cholesterol, fat, platelets, cell wastes, and other substances create plaque on your artery walls. In many people, plaque begins to build and arteries begin to narrow in childhood. This can go on for years without causing any symptoms.

In many people, the buildup of plaque increases rapidly during their 30s and 40s. In others, it doesn't become a serious threat until their 50s or beyond. If atherosclerosis advances enough to reduce blood flow significantly to your heart, you have coronary heart disease, also called coronary artery disease or heart disease. At this stage, your atherosclerosis may start causing symptoms, such as chest pain and shortness of breath. Atherosclerosis may lead to stroke if it blocks blood flow to your brain and to other health problems if it reduces blood flow to other parts of your body.


More to Explore