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High Cholesterol (cont.)


High cholesterol does not cause symptoms. It is usually found during a blood test that measures cholesterol levels.

Some people with rare lipid disorders may have symptoms such as bumps in the skin, hands, or feet, which are caused by deposits of extra cholesterol and other types of fat.

What Happens

Having high cholesterol can lead to the buildup of plaque in artery walls. This buildup is called atherosclerosis. It can lead to coronary artery diseaseClick here to see an illustration. (CAD), heart attack, stroke or transient ischemic attack (TIA), and peripheral arterial disease.

Atherosclerosis can cause these problems because it:

  • Narrows your arteries. When enough plaque builds up, it starts to narrow your arteries. This happens slowly over many years. In time, the plaque can limit blood flow throughout your body, including the heart and brain.
  • Hardens your arteries. A healthy artery can widen (dilate) so that more blood can flow through when needed, such as during activity. When hard plaque forms in the walls of an artery, it can make the artery too stiff to widen. This "hardening" of your arteries can also limit blood flow in your body.
  • Blocks your arteries. When a blood clot forms around a crack or rupture in the plaque, it can block the artery. This can cause a heart attack or stroke.

For more information, see:

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