Cholesterol is a naturally-occurring substance found in your blood. It plays an important role in cell building and hormone production, but cholesterol levels that get too high can start doing more harm than good.
About 2 in 5 American adults have high cholesterol. It’s a leading risk factor for heart disease, because it causes fatty buildup in your blood vessels, restricts blood flow, and makes your heart work harder.
Many people know that high cholesterol poses a risk to heart and vascular health. Unfortunately, high cholesterol can also have whole-body health impacts, from increased risk of stroke to numbness in the legs.
Kunal Patel, MD, and our team at NJ Cardiovascular Institute take a comprehensive approach to heart care and cholesterol management. We work with patients to educate them on the impacts of high cholesterol and how they can protect and improve their health.
Here are a few lesser-known impacts of high cholesterol.
1. Increased risk of stroke
A stroke is a medical emergency that occurs when the blood supply to part of your brain is interrupted. If you have high cholesterol, the blood vessels in your brain can narrow along with vessels in the rest of your body.
A stroke can happen when a blood clot blocks blood flow or a narrowed artery significantly reduces blood flow. Signs of a stroke include sudden weakness, speech difficulty, vision changes, and dizziness. In the event of a stroke, it’s extremely important to seek immediate medical care to prevent severe complications or death.
2. Increased risk of gallstones
Cholesterol is an essential element of bile, a digestive substance that helps your body break down dietary fats and absorb fat-soluble vitamins. When you have high blood cholesterol levels, the cholesterol content in bile increases too.
This extra cholesterol, along with calcium, salt, and other minerals, can crystalize and harden into gallstones. Gallstones are hard deposits found in your gallbladder, and they can be very painful.
3. Increased risk of leg pain and numbness
Your legs are quite far from your heart, but they’re also at risk of complications from high cholesterol. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a complication that can develop when the arteries in your legs get too narrow due to buildup from high cholesterol levels.
PAD can cause numbness and tingling in your legs or feet. Loss of sensation can increase your risk of ulcers and other slow-healing wounds. Another common symptom of PAD is leg pain that feels like muscle cramping, particularly with physical activity.
Undiagnosed and untreated high cholesterol can have a serious impact on your health. The good news is that you have options when it comes to managing your high cholesterol.
Dr. Patel and our team can recommend lifestyle changes, including nutrition and exercise guidance, to lower cholesterol levels naturally. Cholesterol medication can also be an effective option for many people.
Have you had your cholesterol checked lately? Schedule a consultation at NJ Cardiovascular Institute to find out more about improving your cholesterol levels, cardiovascular health, and whole-body wellness. Contact us over the phone or book an appointment online today.