Cholesterol is vital to many crucial processes in the human body, and managing cholesterol levels is important for overall health. “Cholesterol is a fat-like, waxy substance that helps your body make cell membranes, many hormones, and vitamin D,” says Seth Shay Martin, M.D., M.H.S. “The cholesterol in your blood comes from two sources: the foods you eat and your liver. Your liver makes all the cholesterol your body needs. Cholesterol and other fats are carried in your bloodstream as spherical particles called lipoproteins. The two most commonly known lipoproteins are low-density lipoproteins (LDL) and high-density lipoproteins (HDL).” Here are subtle signs of hyperlipidemia to be aware of, according to experts. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don’t miss these Sure Signs You’ve Already Had COVID.
Too-high levels of cholesterol can increase your risk of heart attack, heart disease and stroke, doctors warn. “For people who have plaque in their arteries or who have other factors that put them at risk for cardiovascular disease, doctors recommend an ideal LDL level well below 70 mg/dl,” says Dr. Martin. “For those without risk factors who have an LDL level at or above 190 mg/dl, the recommendation is to get this level down to below 100 mg/dl. People age 40 to 75 who are living with diabetes and whose LDL is at 70 or above may need medication.”
Experts warn that many women are unaware of how high their cholesterol might be. “Approximately 45 percent of women over the age of 20 have a total cholesterol of 200 mg/dl and above, which is considered elevated—but a survey by the American Heart Association found that 76 percent of women say they don’t even know what their cholesterol values are,” says Erin Donnelly Michos, M.D., M.H.S. “A high level of triglycerides seems to predict an even greater risk for heart disease in women compared with men.”
High cholesterol can lead to heart disease and stroke—so never ignore symptoms such as chest pain, trouble breathing, and unexplained pain in the arms and legs. “The main risk associated with high cholesterol is coronary heart disease (CHD),” says the Cleveland Clinic. “Your blood cholesterol level has a lot to do with your chances of getting heart disease. If your cholesterol is too high, it builds up on the walls of your arteries. Over time, this buildup is known as atherosclerosis. This condition causes arteries to become narrowed, and the narrowed blood vessels reduce blood flow to the heart. This can result in angina (chest pain) from not enough blood flow getting to the heart, or a heart attack in cases when a blood vessel is blocked completely and the heart muscle begins to die.”
High cholesterol is closely linked with type 2 diabetes. “Type 2 diabetes is another disease linked to high cholesterol because diabetes can affect the different cholesterol levels,” warns the Cleveland Clinic. “Even if blood sugar control is good, people with diabetes tend to have increased triglycerides, decreased high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and sometimes increased low-density lipoprotein (LDL). This increases the likelihood of developing atherosclerosis.”
Studies show the COVID-19 virus is more dangerous for people with high cholesterol, leading to a significantly higher rate of potential heart attack. “These results are significant because these data underscore the importance of understanding if individuals have underlying cardiovascular disease or genetic high cholesterol when treating for COVID-19 infection or considering vaccination,” says Kelly Myers, chief technology officer of the Family Heart Foundation.
Follow the public health fundamentals and help end this pandemic, no matter where you live—get vaccinated or boosted ASAP; if you live in an area with low vaccination rates, wear an N95 face mask, don’t travel, social distance, avoid large crowds, don’t go indoors with people you’re not sheltering with (especially in bars), practice good hand hygiene, and to protect your life and the lives of others, don’t visit any of these 35 Places You’re Most Likely to Catch COVID.