'I found out I had high cholesterol after a sign appeared on my face - spotting it saved my life'

Man studying himself in the mirror

A man noticed high cholesterol deposits on his eyelids

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Adam Chapman

By Adam Chapman

Published: 26/02/2024

- 11:35

Updated: 26/02/2024

- 11:39

High cholesterol often manifests itself in subtle ways so it's easy to sleepwalk into disaster - a lesson one dad learned the hard way

A dad-of-three is raising awarness of the subtle signs of high cholesterol after discovering he was at risk of having a heart attack decades later.

High cholesterol is when you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood.

It is commonly referred to as the 'silent killer' because it rarely produces symptoms yet increases your risk of a heart attack or stroke.

Symptoms can appear if you're genetically predisposed to high cholesterol, however.

Yellowish spots above the eyelid can signal you have familial hypercholesterolaemia

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A husband and father-of-three has revealed how a subtle sign on his face first drew attention to his high cholesterol levels.

Norm's Mum was only 30 when she wound up in hospital needing triple-bypass surgery, the first of several major operations over the following two decades relating to cardiovascular disease.

"She suffered in silence most of the time, sucking on the occasional angina tablet to make the discomfort go away. She was only 50 when her body finally gave out and she passed away," he told the Heart Foundation.

"So it was no real surprise when at 17 I learned that my LDL-cholesterol levels were high."

It soon transpired that Norm had a genetic condition known as familial hypercholesterolaemia, whereby high cholesterol levels run in the family.

"The first sign was the appearance of tiny yellowish spots above my eyelid – cholesterol deposits – a likely indication of buildup elsewhere in the vascular system," he said.

After seemingly trying everything, from medical interventions to overhauling his lifestyle, his cholesterol levels remained stubbornly high, although his symptoms had cleared up.

"In fact, it wasn’t until I was 49 that I asked my GP for a more thorough heart health check and gained a referral to a cardiologist. First was a ‘stress test’, which came back fine. But a cardiac CT scan found some abnormal calcium deposits in the blood vessels around my heart," he revealed.

Person cutting up tomatoes as part of a healthy diet

Most people can kick their high cholesterol levels by improving their diet and exercising more

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The angiogram revealed he had an 80 percent blockage in a major heart artery.

Thankfully, Norm underwent a simple procedure to implant a stent and was spared open heart surgery.

But his story remains a cautionary tale of the importance of heeding the warning signs of high cholesterol, however subtle they may seem.

It's important to note that most people will not get symptoms and you can only find out if you have it by getting a blood test.

Familial hypercholesterolaemia is one of the most common inherited conditions, but high cholesterol levels are generally the result of an unhealthy lifestyle.

"You can lower your cholesterol by eating healthily and getting more exercise. Some people also need to take medicine," explains the NHS.

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