Excess low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol may lead to a narrowing of the arteries, which can reduce blood flow to the heart and cause chest pain. Healthy lifestyle changes may help treat or prevent this.

People sometimes refer to high LDL cholesterol levels as “high cholesterol.” Excess levels of this type of cholesterol have links to several health issues.

Excess cholesterol levels can cause fatty deposits to build up in the walls of the arteries, which causes them to narrow. This reduces blood flow to the heart and may cause symptoms such as chest pain.

This article looks at the link between high cholesterol levels and chest pain and the steps people can take to treat and prevent it.

Senior man feeling chest pain at homeShare on Pinterest
FG Trade/Getty Images

Excess cholesterol levels are a risk factor for angina, which refers to chest pain due to a lack of oxygen-rich blood reaching the heart.

Cholesterol in the blood can collect with other substances and form plaques, or fatty deposits, in the arteries. This plaque buildup causes a narrowing of the arteries, which reduces blood flow.

Narrowed arteries restrict the amount of blood reaching the heart muscle, meaning the heart does not receive as much oxygen as it needs. This may cause chest pain or discomfort.

Learn more about angina.

According to the American Heart Association (AHA), chest pain may feel like a squeezing sensation or pressure in the chest. It may feel similar to indigestion.

People may also experience discomfort in areas around the chest, including the shoulders, arms, abdomen, back, neck, and jaw.

Is it a heart attack?

Heart attacks occur when there is a lack of blood supply to the heart. Symptoms include:

  • chest pain, pressure, or tightness
  • pain that may spread to arms, neck, jaw, or back
  • nausea and vomiting
  • sweaty or clammy skin
  • heartburn or indigestion
  • shortness of breath
  • coughing or wheezing
  • lightheadedness or dizziness
  • anxiety that can feel similar to a panic attack

If someone has these symptoms:

  1. Dial 911 or the number of the nearest emergency department.
  2. Stay with them until the emergency services arrive.

If a person stops breathing before emergency services arrive, perform manual chest compressions:

  1. Lock fingers together and place the base of hands in the center of the chest.
  2. Position shoulders over hands and lock elbows.
  3. Press hard and fast, at a rate of 100–120 compressions per minute, to a depth of 2 inches.
  4. Continue these movements until the person starts to breathe or move.
  5. If needed, swap over with someone else without pausing compressions.

Use an automated external defibrillator (AED) available in many public places:

  1. An AED provides a shock that may restart the heart.
  2. Follow the instructions on the defibrillator or listen to the guided instructions.
Was this helpful?

People with excess cholesterol levels may not experience symptoms and may only be aware of the condition through a blood test.

High levels of excess cholesterol may cause symptoms, including:

  • Xanthomas: These are bumps or lesions on the skin due to fatty deposits collecting under the skin, especially on the joints, elbows, knees, buttocks, feet, or hands.
  • Corneal arcus: These are grayish-white rings around the iris, which is the colored part of the eye.

People may also experience fatigue or shortness of breath, which can occur if insufficient oxygen is reaching the heart.

Learn more about symptoms of excess cholesterol.

If people have chest pain, they must seek immediate medical care. A doctor will evaluate the person’s symptoms and determine treatment.

They may also recommend a blood test to determine cholesterol levels and check whether they are within optimal ranges.

Without diagnosis and treatment, excess levels of cholesterol may lead to serious complications, including stroke or heart attack.

People with excess cholesterol can discuss a treatment plan with a doctor to help lower levels to optimal ranges. Treatment may include:

People may be able to prevent high LDL cholesterol by making healthy lifestyle choices.

This can help keep cholesterol levels in an optimal range and reduce the risk of complications such as heart disease and stroke.

The following steps may help prevent high LDL cholesterol:

  • limiting foods high in saturated and trans fats, such as meat, dairy, and palm oil
  • eating a diet low in salt and added sugars, including whole grains, vegetables, fruits, low fat dairy products, lean meat, and seafood
  • eating a diet high in fiber by including foods such as oatmeal, beans, fruits and vegetables, and whole grains
  • including unsaturated fats in the diet, such as olive oil, avocados, and nuts
  • aiming for a moderate weight, which people can discuss with a healthcare professional
  • getting regular physical activity, aiming for 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise per week, such as brisk walking
  • avoiding or quitting smoking, if applicable
  • limiting alcohol intake

Below are answers to some frequently asked questions about excess cholesterol.

Will losing weight lower cholesterol?

Even a small amount of weight loss can lead to changes in cholesterol levels. People with overweight and obesity may be able to lower LDL cholesterol, the “bad” type, and raise HDL cholesterol, the beneficial type, by losing only 3–5% of their body weight.

Can you get rid of hyperlipidemia?

Research suggests that a combination of healthy lifestyle changes can help lower cholesterol to optimal ranges without using drugs, such as statins.

Lifestyle changes include a heart-healthy diet for lowering cholesterol, moderate exercise, and weight loss.

Excess low-density lipoprotein cholesterol may contribute to fatty deposits, or plaques, building up in the arteries that may reduce blood flow to the heart. People may experience chest pain if the heart does not receive enough oxygen-rich blood.

The term for this kind of chest pain is angina, and people may feel a squeezing or pressure in the chest. They may also experience symptoms such as shortness of breath and fatigue.

Lifestyle changes, including eating a heart-healthy diet, maintaining a moderate weight, and getting regular exercise, may help lower cholesterol levels to within a healthy range.