High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips

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It’s imperative to treat high cholesterol before it progresses to serious health problems like heart disease. While the fatty substance is often reluctant to show symptoms, some warning signs can appear once cholesterol accumulates in your arteries. One tell-tale sign of this process can strike in your leg.

Leaving high levels of cholesterol to quietly build up in your arteries promotes plaque accumulation in this area.

Apart from cholesterol, plaques are a cocktail of fatty substances, cellular waste products, calcium and fibrin.

Once your arteries contain too much of this dangerous mixture, they become thick and stiff.

This spells no good news for your blood flow, with your legs taking the hit, which can trigger the “first” symptom.

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The lack of blood flowing to your legs can sometimes lead to a “common” condition known as peripheral artery disease, or PAD for short, according to the Cleveland Clinic.

The “first symptom” triggered by PAD can be an uncomfortable sensation known as “Charley horse”.

Charley horse, or muscle cramp, describes spasms that can occur in any muscle in the body, but often happen in the leg.

When a muscle is in spasm, it contracts without your control and doesn’t relax.

The Cleveland Clinic explains that your muscles might feel like they are tiring out.

Another telltale sign of a cholesterol build-up in your arteries is that leg pain crops up after walking or exercise.

The health portal adds: “The more effort or activity, the worse the pain will feel. 

“In some cases, you may also feel numbness because the nearby nerves also don’t have enough blood flow.”

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What’s worse, this red flag sign can be severe enough to stop you participating in your usual daily activities, such as golfing or chasing after grandchildren.

Apart from pain in your legs, PAD can eventually cause other symptoms, including:

  • A burning or aching pain in your feet and toes while resting, especially at night while lying flat
  • Cool skin on your feet
  • Redness or other colour changes of your skin
  • More frequent infections
  • Toe and foot sores that don’t heal.

Unfortunately, PAD doesn’t always cause many noticeable symptoms which makes it hard to identify – similarly to high cholesterol.

This means that the most reliable way of determining cholesterol levels is through a blood test.

The doctor can either draw blood from your arm or do a finger-prick test, the NHS explains.

Once you get high cholesterol confirmed, there’s plenty you can do to keep your levels in check, ranging from a healthy diet to cholesterol-busting medicine called statins.

A cholesterol-lowering diet focuses on reducing your intake of saturated fats – think cheese, butter, sausages and biscuits. However, upping your intake of soluble fibre could also help lower your levels.

Other helpful lifestyle tweaks include cutting back on alcohol, quitting smoking and exercising.

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