Signs & Symptoms of High Cholesterol in Women

Fact Checked

iJose Luis Pelaez Inc/Blend Images/Getty Images

High cholesterol is bad for your health, can block arteries and lead to a heart attack. While some risk factors--such as eating an unhealthy diet, being overweight, smoking, and getting a lack of physical activity--can be avoided, others, such as age, family history and sex cannot. By maintaining a healthy lifestyle and visiting the doctor to get a cholesterol test, you can avoid dangerously high cholesterol levels.

No Symptoms

Monitoring your cholesterol and getting regularly checked by the doctor is extremely important. While high cholesterol can have adverse health effects and can even be fatal, no outward symptoms resulting from high cholesterol. The only way to know if you have high cholesterol is to get a cholesterol test.

Estrogen Raises HDL

While there are no obvious symptoms of high cholesterol, women in general are less at risk of suffering from high cholesterol at an early age than men, the American Heart Association states. Estrogen, the female sex hormone, has a tendency to raise good cholesterol, or high-density lipoproteins, so women tend to have higher HDL levels than men. HDL can take bad protein, or low-density lipoprotein, back to the liver for disposal, lowering overall cholesterol. Once women go through menopause, their estrogen levels decline, making them more at risk to develop high levels of harmful cholesterol.

Higher Levels of Triglycerides

Though premenopausal women tend to have lower cholesterol than men, women tend to have higher triglyceride levels. Triglycerides, a type of fat in the blood, can also cause coronary disease. It is important for women to get triglycerides tested, but doctors usually check triglycerides while testing cholesterol.

Getting Tested

The American Heart Association advises people over 20 to get their cholesterol checked once every five years. In order to test your LDL, you must fast before taking the test. If you get tested without fasting, only the HDL and total cholesterol will show up in the results. Healthy total cholesterol levels are no more than 200 milligrams per deciliter of blood. Healthy HDL levels are no less than 40 mg/dL, according to the AHA. Women who are over 50 or have previous high cholesterol or have other risk factors may need to be tested more frequently than once every five years.