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High Cholesterol: Complications and Side Effects

Lauren Frame
August 20, 2019

Cholesterol, the waxy, fat-like substance found in every cell in your body, plays a vital role in your health and well-being. Too much cholesterol, however, can cause dangerous side effects and complications. 

Your liver produces all the cholesterol your body needs to help your organs function, as well as make hormones, vitamin D, and even digestive fluids.

While your liver produces the majority of the cholesterol in our body, the foods you eat also contribute to your cholesterol levels. Some foods can increase your cholesterol, while others can help lower it, and it’s important to know the difference to maintain healthy levels.

Image of a stethoscope with heart icon.

Heart Attack and Stroke

High levels of cholesterol can cause dangerous accumulations of the waxy substance, called plaques, on the walls of your arteries. This is known as atherosclerosis and can reduce the flow of blood through your arteries.

If the blood flow is restricted in the arteries that supply your heart with blood, you could experience chest pain, called angina, or develop other symptoms of coronary artery disease.

If the plaques in your arteries rupture tear, they can form a clot, blocking the flow of blood or plugging an artery. Stopped blood flow to part of your heart can cause a heart attack. 

Stopped blood flow to part of your brain can cause a stroke. Strokes can cause damage to the brain, leading to memory loss or loss of movement, and difficulty with speech or other functions.

Peripheral Vascular Disease

Diseases of the blood vessels outside the heart and brain are known as peripheral vascular disease. In this condition, plaque builds up along artery walls and negatively affects your blood circulation. 

High Blood Pressure

High blood pressure or hypertension can also occur when your arteries become narrowed with plaques. Your heart has to work much harder to pump blood through these hardened arteries, causing blood pressure to become high. High blood pressure has also been linked to heart disease.


Too much cholesterol in your bile, or digestive fluids, can result in the excess forming into crystals. These crystals can harden into stones in your gallbladder that can cause extreme pain.

Track Your Cholesterol

Each time you donate blood, you will undergo a quick health and wellness check. You can keep track of the results of this check, including your cholesterol numbers, through our donor portal.

Once registered for a free account, you will have access to your total cholesterol number, which is the measure of both your LDL and HDL cholesterol numbers.

You can also view your pulse rate, blood pressure, temperature and monitor your blood donation gallon level.

Lauren Frame, OneBlood Graphic Designer

Lauren Frame

Lauren Frame is a Graphic Designer at OneBlood. She has a passion for motivating and educating blood donors through storytelling.

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