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the warning signs of high cholesterol

What Are The Warning Signs Of High Cholesterol?

High cholesterol is a common ailment in South Africa and has much to do with the westernised diet most of us follow, but what are the warning signs of high cholesterol? 

We are accustomed to fast, convenient food and using large amounts of oil and salt. These additions make food more decadent and addictive.

There is no shame in a diagnosis of high cholesterol. With some lifestyle changes, you can get your body and health back on track, manage your symptoms and feel great. 

What is Cholesterol?

Most people don’t know it, but there are two types of cholesterol in the body: good and bad. 

Good cholesterol is known as high-density lipoprotein (HDL). Bad Cholesterol is low-density and is referred to as lipoprotein (LDL).

Cholesterol is a natural fatty substance made by the liver and protects the nerves. It has a waxy consistency and helps to create cell tissue and certain hormones. 

Your body also gets cholesterol from your food, says Family Doctor. This includes eggs, meats, and dairy. Too much bad cholesterol (LDL) causes health problems and leads to various lifestyle diseases, putting you at risk of heart disease or stroke.

Other Types Of Fat

Another type of fat in the bloodstream is Triglycerides. These are the result of eating more calories than your body can burn.

Below are the approximate ideal levels your body needs to be healthy – this also depends on your heart health.

  • Total cholesterol level – this should be less than 200, but it depends on your HDL and LDL levels.
  • LDL cholesterol levels – Make sure this level is less than 130, depending on your heart disease risk. Speak to your doctor when measuring which levels are suitable for your body specifically.
  • HDL cholesterol levels – 60 or higher reduce your risk for heart disease.
  • Triglycerides – Aim for less than 150 milligrams per deciliter (mg/dl).

The best thing to do to get your cholesterol under control is to speak to a qualified medical professional. 

The Warning Signs And Symptoms

High cholesterol can cause emergency events if left untreated. The damage from high cholesterol can result in a heart attack or stroke without showing any prior symptoms. Damage caused by the condition can go unnoticed until it reaches a critical stage.

Some sufferers report feeling dizzy or having a headache after eating a high-fat meal. 

Common indicators that your cholesterol may be high are:

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

Your doctor can check if you have buildup in your arteries to see the progression of damage from high cholesterol. 


The most common sign of high cholesterol is numbness in the legs and feet. Also referred to as pins and needles, the sensation or lack thereof can range from mild to intense. Numbness signals cholesterol buildup in the patient’s arteries and other blood vessels. 

The buildup blocks blood flow and can prevent the oxygen-rich blood from reaching the arms and feet, leading to pain and a tingling sensation. Other signs and symptoms of the disease on the legs and feet include cramping, sores that take very long to heal or in extreme cases won’t heal at all, and chronically cold legs or feet.

Buildup In Your Arteries

Deposits of fatty substances, cholesterol, cellular waste products, calcium, and fibrin create buildup in your arteries, explains John Hopkins. As it builds, it thickens the walls and stiffens them.

This buildup changes the linings of your arteries as a result, making them narrower. Narrow arteries restrict blood flow. This could lead to severe complications.

If your doctor suspects you have high cholesterol, they will perform a blood test. A blood test will indicate if your cholesterol is too high. 

The test checks the lipid (or fat)  levels in your blood. Anyone over 20 should get their cholesterol tested every 4 to 6 years. This will help you assess whether you need to make any lifestyle changes.

A doctor may also suggest you check your cholesterol more frequently if you have a family history of high cholesterol. They might also recommend it to patients who demonstrate the following risk factors:

  • Consume a diet filled with processed foods,
  • Have a high BMI,
  • Sedentary lifestyle,
  • Have a family history of high cholesterol,
  • Smoke tobacco, and
  • Have diabetes or kidney disease.

However, anyone can suffer from high cholesterol regardless of age, gender, or ethnicity.

Affinity Health 

Affinity Health makes affordable healthcare available to South Africans. Our healthcare plans suit everyone’s unique health and financial needs.

We are passionate about quality healthcare. We used our expertise and designed a range of options, including Day-to-Day and Hospital plans.


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