High cholesterol: The warning sign on your toes of cholesterol build-up in your arteries
HIGH cholesterol is when you have too much of a fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. There is a telltale sign in your toes that can signal the fatty substance has blocked the arteries in your legs.
High cholesterol belongs to a group of conditions that raise your risk of heart disease typically without symptoms. However, like high blood pressure, consistently high cholesterol levels can produce unsettling warning signs. When symptoms do appear, it typically indicates cholesterol is collecting on the inside of your artery walls – a process called atherosclerosis. A sign in your toes can signal a very severe form of this process called peripheral artery disease (PAD).
As PAD specialist Advanced Vascular Surgery explains, PAD describes what happens when the arteries in the legs become blocked, typically from a build up of cholesterol.
“Early in the disease, you may feel pain, cramping, or fatigue in your lower body when you walk or exercise,” says Advanced Vascular Surgery.
However, if you do not receive PAD treatment, your symptoms may worsen, warns the health body.
To prevent PAD from developing, it is vital to reduce high cholesterol levels.
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 fats increase your LDL cholesterol levels – the “bad” type of cholesterol that collects on the inside of your artery walls.
Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese.
Instead, Heart UK says to opt for the following:
- 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.
Many of the above are found naturally in The Mediterranean diet, which is high in vegetables, fruits, legumes, nuts, beans, cereals, grains, fish, and unsaturated fats such as olive oil.
The Mediterranean diet has been linked with good health, including a healthier heart.
In addition to improving your diet, you should also engage in regular physical exercise.
UK health guidelines advise aiming to do at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of exercise a week.
Some good things to try when starting out include:
- Walking – try to walk fast enough so your heart starts beating faster
You might need medicine to lower your cholesterol if certain conditions are met.
According to the NHS, these include:
- Your cholesterol level has not gone down after changing your diet and lifestyle
- You’re at a high risk of having a heart attack or stroke.
As the health body explains, statins are the most common medicine for high cholesterol.
Statins work by reducing the amount of LDL cholesterol your body makes.
“You take a tablet once a day. You usually need to take them for life,” adds the NHS.