The potential consequences of high cholesterol include heart attacks and strokes. Even though the American Heart Association recommends cholesterol screening at least once every five years, as of February 2015, roughly a third of Americans have not had their cholesterol tested during that time frame, reports WebMD.
The typical American's cholesterol is on the edge of the high range, and one out of six Americans have high cholesterol. When cholesterol levels get too high, it forms plaque along the walls of the arteries, gradually clogging them and cutting down on blood flow. Over time, this reduction in blood flow can cause a heart attack or a stroke, notes WebMD.
When a clog forms in one of the arteries leading to the heart (the coronary arteries), the heart doesn't get enough oxygen or blood. If a piece of plaque breaks off, it can cause a clot, blocking the flow even more. If that clot blocks an artery altogether, the result is a heart attack, according to WebMD.
Plaque buildup can affect arteries to the brain in the same way. If a clot totally clogs an artery going to the brain, the end result is a stroke. Because people don't suffer any physical symptoms of high cholesterol, testing is vital, as the first physical consequence can be one of these two dangerous events, states WebMD.