High cholesterol means you have too much cholesterol – a waxy substance produced inside the liver – in your bloodstream. Over time, cholesterol build-up can harden and narrow your arteries. This process is known as peripheral artery disease (PAD). When this happens, you may experience a number of symptoms.
PAD relates to the hardening of the arteries in the arms and legs.
According to health body Cardiovascular Labs of America (CLA), the “classic and most common” symptom of PAD is leg pain.
“This may appear as pain in a specific area of the leg, such as in the calf or thigh—anywhere from the buttock and hip down to the foot,” explains the CLA.
The health body adds: “Weakness and leg cramps often go along with the pain.”
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What causes this symptom?
The British Heart Foundation (BHF) explains: “A bit like angina when you have coronary heart disease, the pain happens because the muscle isn’t getting enough blood to supply the oxygen and nutrients it needs.”
According to the health body, once the muscle has rested, you can walk a similar distance again.
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.
How to reduce your risk of PAD
Keeping high cholesterol levels at bay is central to warding off the threat of PAD.
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“This may be because of your age, weight or another condition you have (like high blood pressure or diabetes).”
Following a formal diagnosis, you’ll usually be recommended lifestyle changes to bring down your reading.
There are several foods which are not just part of a healthy diet, they can actively help to lower your cholesterol too.
According to cholesterol charity Heart UK, cutting down on saturated fat and replacing some of it with unsaturated fats is a great way to lower your cholesterol.
Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese.
Instead, you should opt for foods containing unsaturated fats, which include:
- Vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower, corn, rapeseed, nut and seed oils
- Avocado, nuts and seeds
- Fat spreads made from vegetable oils, such as sunflower and olive oil
- Oily fish.
“Oily fish are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, specifically a type called omega-3 fats,” notes Heart UK.
According to the charity, you should aim to eat two portions of fish per week, at least one of which should be oily.
It adds: “A portion is 140g, but you could have two or three smaller portions throughout the week. Tinned, frozen or fresh all count e.g. salmon, sardines, pilchards, trout, herring and mackerel.”