The first sign of high cholesterol hits your legs, warns doctor

High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips

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High cholesterol is often branded the “silent killer” because it rarely produces symptoms. There are always exceptions to the rule, however. Cholesterol build-up can cause hardening arteries in the arms and legs and this can give rise to sinister symptoms.

This process of hardening arteries in the arms and legs is called peripheral artery disease (PAD).

According to health body Cardiovascular Labs of America (CLA), the “first sign” of PAD is painful cramping in your hip, thigh or calf muscles after certain activities.

According to CLA, even low-intensity activities such as walking or climbing stairs can trigger this painful cramping.

According to CLA’s Doctor Sunjay Wagle, it would be wise to heed the warning sign.

The doc said: “Our body is incredibly intelligent. We need to listen to our legs. If you have leg pain when you walk but it gets better when you rest, you need to have a conversation with your physician.

“If you have heavy legs or have charley horses that are not getting better, this is a serious warning sign.”

A charley horse is the common name for a muscle spasm or cramp, typically in the leg.

Other signs of PAD include:

  • Coldness in the lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side
  • Leg numbness or weakness
  • No pulse or a weak pulse in the legs or feet
  • Painful cramping in one or both of the hips, thighs or calf muscles after certain activities, such as walking or climbing stairs
  • Shiny skin on the legs
  • Skin colour changes on the legs
  • Slower growth of the toenails
  • Sores on the toes, feet or legs that won’t heal
  • Pain when using the arms, such as aching and cramping when knitting, writing or doing other manual tasks
  • Erectile dysfunction
  • Hair loss or slower hair growth on the legs.

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How to reduce the risk of PAD

The key to staving off PAD is to keep cholesterol levels and other heart disease markers in check.

The first step is to get tested for cholesterol.

According to the NHS, your GP might suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high.

This may be because of your age, weight or another condition you have (like high blood pressure or diabetes).

Tips to lower high levels

You can lower your cholesterol by eating healthily and getting more exercise.

The NHS says: “To reduce your cholesterol, try to cut down on fatty food, especially food that contains a type of fat called saturated fat.”

According to the health body, you can still have foods that contain a healthier type of fat called unsaturated fat.

Try to eat more:

  • Oily fish, like mackerel and salmon
  • Brown rice, whole grain bread and wholewheat pasta
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Fruits and vegetables.

Getting active can also deal a decisive blow to high cholesterol levels.

The British Heart Foundation (BHF) explains: “Getting your blood pumping by doing exercise will reduce your cholesterol.”

According to the BHF, being active helps your body move the bad cholesterol to your liver where it can be removed out of your system.

You could try:

  • Taking the stairs instead of the lift
  • A brisk walk instead of a slow walk
  • Doing two-minute bursts of jumping jacks several times a day
  • Yoga or pilates if you can’t get out.

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