High cholesterol is a major risk factor for heart disease. Because high cholesterol generally has no symptoms, you can go for years without knowing you have it. The longer it’s left untreated, the greater the chance that complications may occur. Possible complications of high cholesterol include:

Atherosclerosis

High cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis, a dangerous buildup of cholesterol and other fatty material on the walls of your arteries. These accumulations harden over time and turn into plaque. They can reduce blood flow through your arteries or eventually block them completely.

Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)

Coronary artery disease (CAD), otherwise known as heart disease, is the end result of atherosclerosis. The higher your cholesterol, the greater your risk of developing CAD. Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the U.S.

Heart Attack and Stroke

High cholesterol can cause damage to the wall—or lining—of the blood vessels and arteries. When that happens, plaque can build up. If the plaque breaks or ruptures, a blood clot may form and block the artery. This can lead to a heart attack or stroke.

Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD)

Peripheral artery disease (PAD) develops when your extremities do not receive enough blood flow. It is caused by the accumulation of plaque in the arms, legs, feet, or hands, and often signifies atherosclerosis in other parts of the body. PAD occurs most frequently in the legs. Besides reducing blood flow to your arms or legs, peripheral artery disease may also limit blood to the heart and brain. People with PAD are at greater risk of heart attacks, strokes, and limb amputations.