Many older adults have high cholesterol. It can be caused by eating too many fatty foods, as well as certain other lifestyle factors. High cholesterol can have dangerous results, as it may lead to a heart attack or stroke. The risk can be reduced by changes to your diet, getting more exercise, quitting smoking and losing weight.
Cholesterol is a naturally-occurring fat in your blood. Although it is natural, if you have too much cholesterol, it can build up in your arteries causing atherosclerosis, a narrowing of your blood vessels. This can be the start of heart problems such as heart attacks, strokes, and peripheral artery disease.
The amount of cholesterol in your blood is affected by your diet, inactivity, being overweight, smoking, your age and family history, as well as certain medicines. High cholesterol does not have symptoms but can be identified with a blood test. High cholesterol may sometimes indicate heart disease, which can be life-threatening.
As cholesterol builds up in your blood, it will collect as plaque and cling to artery walls. This is called atherosclerosis, which hardens the vessels and narrows the arteries that go to the heart. It can lead to a heart attack and angina (chest pain). When the plaque builds up in the carotid arteries in your neck that supply blood to your brain, you could suffer a stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA). The vessels in your legs can also be affected by high cholesterol. Narrowing of the arteries in the legs will cause pain, making it difficult to walk. This is an indication of peripheral artery disease.
In those unaware of their cholesterol levels, the first sign of high cholesterol may be a sudden heart attack or stroke. Unfortunately, because high cholesterol does not have symptoms, you will not experience impairment under normal circumstances. In some cases, the buildup of cholesterol can cause complications such as chest pain, or angina. Symptoms of angina include:
An aching or burning in your chest
Angina is not a heart attack but is a warning sign indicating that you may have heart disease. This is a warning you should not ignore. Call your doctor if you have these symptoms to rule out heart disease, and to talk about ways to get your cholesterol back on track.
Without the benefit of a blood test to uncover a diagnosis of high cholesterol, you may experience a sudden heart attack. Symptoms of a heart attack include:
Should these symptoms occur, you should contact emergency services. A medical alert system makes calling for help easier, and will immediately communicate your address to the ambulance. If you are at risk for a heart attack, this is something you might want to consider. It would give you peace of mind to know that emergency help is easy to call when needed.
High cholesterol can also cause a stroke, also called a “brain attack”. Symptoms include:
A stroke takes place when part of the brain loses its blood supply and stops working, or when there is bleeding in the brain. A delay in care can cause more damage to the brain and can cause long-term or permanent damage. A medical alert system would provide the medical assistance you need as quickly as possible.
High cholesterol can often be controlled by changing your eating and exercise habits, and sometimes by taking a prescription medication. You should also stop smoking, and lose weight if needed. If you are making progress in these areas, that is a good start. Should you have any symptoms of heart disease, be sure to get help right away. These symptoms include:
If you do not have a medical alert system, call 911 for an ambulance. The faster you can get to a hospital, the better.
High cholesterol affects over 100 million American adults. If you have high cholesterol you are not alone, and there are many positive lifestyle changes you can make to mitigate this condition. In addition, it might be a good idea to have a medical alert system. With one in place, if you have any symptoms of a heart attack or stroke, you can get immediate medical help.