Cholesterol is a byproduct of fat breakdown in the body. Depending on its size, it is broadly classified into heavy, low and very low density lipids (HDL, LDL and VLDLs). These are normally present in all tissues of the body and are useful in hormone production, vitamin D synthesis, etc.
However, cholesterol nowadays is known for its harmful effects. Owing to an increasingly fast lifestyle, coupled with a fat-rich diet and a relative scarcity of physical exercise, high levels of cholesterol is not uncommon.
This causes the excess cholesterol, especially LDL and VLDL, to get deposited on the insides of arteries, narrowing space for adequate blood transport. Since this process is very gradual, there are practically no early signs or symptoms of elevated cholesterol levels.
So when to suspect?
Given the slow onset, it is best to have routine lipid profiles done. People with a genetic predisposition, or those with sedentary lifestyles, bad diet or those over 45 years of age should get it every 6-8 months, while others may get it done every 18-24 months.
At a more advanced stage one may experience fatigue, weakness and shortness of breath. Yellow patches on the skin and in the eyes are another sign to look out for.
Once established, see a doctor if you have not done so already. Additionally, lifestyle changes like exercise, proper diet, adequate hydration are rather simple steps to check and even lower elevated cholesterol levels.
Smoking is a strict no with regards to cholesterol. Alcohol on the other hand is known to improve HDL (good cholesterol), but considering other damaging effects it has on the body, its best to keep it at a minimum.
But these measures are more helpful in cases of early detection, making routine examinations immensely helpful.