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Understanding Cholesterol Problems

High cholesterol typically doesn’t cause any symptoms. In most cases, it only causes emergency events. For instance, a heart attack or stroke can result from the damage caused by high cholesterol.

These events typically don’t occur until high cholesterol leads to the formation of plaque in your arteries. Plaque can narrow arteries so less blood can pass through. The formation of plaque changes the makeup of your arterial lining. This could lead to serious complications.

Your doctor may also suggest you have your cholesterol checked more frequently if you have a family history of high cholesterol. Or if you demonstrate the following risk factors:

  • have high blood pressure
  • are overweight
  • Smoke

Genetic conditions

There is a condition passed through genes that cause high cholesterol called familial hypercholesterolemia. People with this condition have cholesterol levels of 300 mg/dL or higher. They may experience xanthoma, which can appear as a yellow patch above the skin, or a lump underneath the skin.

Coronary artery (heart) disease

Symptoms of heart disease may be different for men and women. However, heart disease remains the number one killer of both sexes in the United States. The most common symptoms include:

  • angina, chest pain
  • nausea
  • extreme fatigue
  • shortness of breath
  • pain in the neck, jaw, upper abdomen, or back
  • numbness or coldness in your extremities

Stroke

The buildup of plaque caused by high cholesterol can put you at serious risk of having the blood supply to an important part of your brain reduced or cut off. This is what happens when a stroke occurs.

A stroke is a medical emergency. It’s important to act fast and seek medical treatment if you or anyone you know experiences the symptoms of a stroke. These symptoms include:

  • sudden loss of balance and coordination
  • sudden dizziness
  • facial asymmetry (drooping eyelid and mouth on just one side)
  • inability to move, particularly affecting just one side of the body
  • confusion
  • slurring words
  • numbness in the face, arm, or leg, especially on one side of the body
  • blurred vision, blackened vision, or double vision
  • sudden severe headache

Peripheral arterial disease

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) can occur when plaque builds up in the walls of the arteries. This will block the flow of blood in the arteries that supply blood to the kidneys, arms, stomach, legs, and feet.

Symptoms of early PAD may include:

  • cramping
  • achiness
  • fatigue
  • pain in the legs during activity or exercise called intermittent claudication
  • discomfort in the legs and feet

As PAD progresses, symptoms occur more frequently and even occur when you are at rest. Later symptoms that may occur because of reduced blood flow include:

  • thinning, paleness, or shininess on the skin of the legs and feet
  • tissue death caused by lack of blood supply called gangrene
  • ulcers on the legs and feet that don’t heal or heal very slowly
  • leg pain that doesn’t go away when at rest
  • burning in your toes
  • leg cramps
  • thick toenails
  • toes that turn blue
  • reduced hair growth on the legs
  • a decrease in the temperature of your lower leg or foot, compared to the other leg

People with PAD have a higher risk of having a heart attack, stroke, or limb amputations.

Heart attack

The arteries that supply the heart with blood can slowly narrow due to the buildup of plaque. This process, called atherosclerosis, happens slowly over time and has no symptoms. Eventually, a piece of the plaque can break off. When this happens, a blood clot forms around the plaque. It can block blood flow to the heart muscle and deprive it of oxygen and nutrients.

This deprivation is called ischemia. When the heart becomes damaged, or part of the heart begins to die due to the lack of oxygen, it’s called a heart attack. The medical term for a heart attack is myocardial infarction.

According to the American Heart Association, someone in the United States has a heart attack roughly every 34 seconds.

Signs of a heart attack include:

  • tightness, squeezing, fullness, pain, or aching in the chest or arms
  • difficulty breathing
  • anxiety or a feeling of impending doom
  • dizziness
  • nausea, indigestion, or heartburn
  • excessive fatigue

A heart attack is a medical emergency. Damage to the heart could be irreversible, or even fatal if treatment doesn’t begin in the first several hours after a heart attack.

It’s important to act fast and seek medical treatment if you or anyone you know experiences the symptoms of a heart attack.

A blood test is the only way to know if your cholesterol is too high. If you facing similar health issues, and want to get a proper diagnosis and receive personalized treatment for them, look no further than Curewell Medical Center, a premier medical institution that provides primary care with a healing touch. We have the state-of-the-art infrastructure in place, to run tests at our onsite labs, check your cholesterol readings, diagnose the health issues, and recommend you a personalized treatment plan to seamlessly manage the issue in your day-to-day life. Our board-certified in-house physician, Dr. Rathna Kumar Yallapragada, MD, an internal medicine specialist with more than 20 years of experience in primary care of adults and adolescents over the age of 13 years old, will dedicatedly examine and oversee the management of the health issue right from its early detection to its cure. If you cannot come to the clinic, no problem there! Schedule a telemedicine visit with Dr. Rathna and get the required medical consultation from the comfort of your home!

Quality, Life-Changing care from the comfort of your home.