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What are the five signs of high cholesterol in men? A guide to understanding high cholesterol

By Dr. Aditya Kumar Singh in Cardiac Sciences , Cardiac Surgery (CTVS)

Oct 23 , 2023 | 3 min read

High cholesterol is a silent but significant health concern, often lurking beneath the surface without any noticeable symptoms. Men, in particular, are at a higher risk of developing high cholesterol, which can impact cardiovascular health.

High cholesterol refers to elevated levels of cholesterol in the blood. Cholesterol is a fatty, waxy substance that the body needs for various functions, including building cell membranes and producing hormones. Cholesterol travels through the bloodstream by lipoproteins, primarily two types:

  • LDL (Low-Density Lipoprotein): Often known as the "bad" cholesterol type, LDL carries cholesterol from the liver to cells throughout the body. An excess of LDL can build up in the arteries, forming plaque. This plaque can narrow arteries and increase the risk of atherosclerosis, heart disease, and stroke.
  • HDL (High-Density Lipoprotein): Conversely, HDL cholesterol is often called "good" cholesterol. It works in the opposite direction, carrying cholesterol away from the cells and back to the liver, where it is processed and eliminated from the body. Higher levels of HDL are associated with a reduced risk of heart disease.

5 signs of high cholesterol in men

  • Xanthomas:These are fatty deposits under the skin, often appearing as yellowish lumps or bumps, commonly on the elbows, knees, or buttocks.
  • Xanthelasma: These are cholesterol deposits around the eyes, which may appear as yellowish patches on the eyelids.
  • Chest pain: High cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis and chest pain (angina) due to reduced blood flow to the heart.
  • Fatigue: Elevated cholesterol levels can impact blood flow, leading to fatigue, weakness, and a lack of energy.
  • Shortness of breath: Reduced blood flow to the heart can cause shortness of breath during physical activity.

Read more -How To Lower LDL Cholesterol Without Medication

The link between cardiovascular health and other conditions

High cholesterol, specifically elevated levels of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol, is the primary risk factor for cardiovascular diseases. This "bad" cholesterol leads to the accumulation of plaque in the arteries and increases the risk of conditions such as:

  • Atherosclerosis: Plaque buildup can narrow the arteries, restricting blood flow and leading to atherosclerosis.
  • Hypertension: High cholesterol can contribute to high blood pressure, straining the heart and blood vessels.
  • Coronary Artery Disease (CAD): The narrowing of coronary arteries can cause chest pain (angina) and, in severe cases, heart attacks.
  • Stroke: Blocked or narrowed arteries can impede blood flow to the brain, resulting in strokes.
  • Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD): Reduced blood flow to the limbs can lead to pain, numbness, and, in severe cases, amputations.

Ways to manage high cholesterol

Some tips for those experiencing high cholesterol are:

  • Dietary changes: Adopt a heart-healthy diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, and lean proteins. Limit saturated and trans fats and reduce dietary cholesterol intake.
  • Regular exercise: Engaging in consistent physical activity helps raise "good" high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol and lower "bad" LDL cholesterol. Consult a doctor or physical therapist so you can safely perform these exercises. 
  • Medications: When lifestyle changes are insufficient, healthcare providers may prescribe cholesterol-lowering medications like statins.
  • Weight management: Maintaining a healthy weight positively impacts cholesterol levels. 

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Prevention tips

Some tips to slow down and mitigate the risk of high cholesterol include:

  • Healthy diet: Embrace a balanced diet low in saturated and trans fats. Focus on foods that promote heart health.
  • Regular check-ups: Regular cholesterol checks and overall health assessments can help catch and manage high cholesterol early.
  • Exercise: Make physical activity a part of your routine to boost heart health and manage cholesterol levels. Ask your doctor about different ways to get active, like going for walks, swimming, calisthenics and more. Figure out an activity you enjoy so you can be regular.
  • Moderate alcohol: If you choose to drink, do so in moderation, as excessive alcohol can increase cholesterol levels.
  • No smoking: Quitting smoking can improve cholesterol levels and reduce cardiovascular risks.

High cholesterol can be a stealthy adversary, especially for men. By recognizing the subtle signs, understanding the link between cholesterol and cardiovascular health, and taking proactive steps to manage and prevent elevated cholesterol levels, men can take control of their heart health and reduce the risk of related conditions.