What are the Signs of High Cholesterol?

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  • Written By: K.C. Bruning
  • Edited By: John Allen
  • Last Modified Date: 19 September 2019
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The signs of high cholesterol can only be uncovered through a blood test, which examines lipids and fats in the blood. A typical test would examine levels of LDL and HDL, which are proteins in the blood that transport cholesterol, as well as total cholesterol. It will also measure Triglycerides, which are a kind of fat found in blood. One of the most serious signs of high cholesterol is an elevated LDL level, as this can create a high risk for heart disease.

Cholesterol tests measure the milligrams of cholesterol in each deciliter of blood or the millimoles (mmol) per liter of blood. Each test has different criteria for what are desirable levels of cholesterol. While there are some types of cholesterol that should be low, other varieties should be at higher levels.

The total cholesterol test results fall into the categories best, borderline high, and high. A borderline total cholesterol level is 200–239 mg/dL or 5.2–6.2 mmol/L. Results at or about 240 mg/dL or 6.2 mmol/L are considered high.


One of the most serious signs of high cholesterol is an LDL test with a high number. The test results fall into one of five categories: best for people at risk for heart disease, near ideal, borderline high, high, and very high. An individual with 160–189 mg/dl or 3.4–4.1 mmol/L has high cholesterol. Any number at or about 190 mg/dl or 4.9 mmol/L is considered to be very high. Most treatments will address a high LDL number due to an elevated risk for heart disease. This one of the most significant signs of high cholesterol

When testing for signs of high cholesterol, it is actually desirable to have high level of HDL cholesterol. Test results measure whether HDL levels are poor, better, or best. The desired levels are 60 mg/dl or 1.5mmol/L or higher. Men with a level below 40 mg/dL or 1 mmol/L or women below 50 mg/dL or 1.3 mmol/L are considered to have too little HDL cholesterol.

The test results for Triglycerides are categorized into four categories: best, borderline high, high, and very high. Borderline high triglycerides are from 150–199 mg/dL or 1.7–2.2 mmol/L. High levels are 200–499 mg/dL or 2.3–5.6 mmol/L. Any number at or above 500 mg/dL or 4.6 mmol/L is considered to be very high.

Without testing, the only significant signs of high cholesterol are serious, life-threatening conditions such as heart attack and stroke. This is why it is recommended that individuals over 20 years old receive cholesterol testing every five years. It is also important to be aware of the risk factors for high cholesterol such as a family history, poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking, and advanced age.


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