High cholesterol: Symptoms include cramping in legs and calves

High cholesterol could be described as an “invisible killer” because it paves the way to serious health problems without throwing out obvious signs. However, a build-up of the waxy substance can lead to a number of complications that do present symptoms. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a cholesterol-related complication that can present acute warning signs.

Peripheral Artery Disease is a disease whereby plaque such as cholesterol builds up in the arteries that carry blood to your head, organs, and limbs.

According to the University of California San Francisco’s Department of Surgery, symptoms may include cramping in the affected leg(s) and in the buttocks, thighs, calves, and feet, which may ease after resting.

Other signs and symptoms of PAD include:

  • Weak or absent pulses in the legs or feet
  • Sores or wounds on the toes, feet, or legs that heal slowly, poorly, or not at all
  • A pale or bluish color to the skin
  • A lower temperature in one leg compared to the other leg
  • Poor nail growth on the toes and decreased hair growth on the legs
  • Erectile dysfunction, especially among men who have diabetes.

It’s worth noting that many people who have PAD don’t have any signs or symptoms.

READ MORE: High cholesterol: Pain in three areas of the body signals high levels – do not ‘dismiss’

How to reduce your risk of PAD

To reduce your risk of PAD and other cholesterol related-complications, you should keep high cholesterol levels in check.

Diet offers a robust means of reducing 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, the key is to cut down on saturated fat and replace some of it with unsaturated fats.

Best sources of unsaturated fat 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,” explains 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.

“A portion is 140g, but you could have two or three smaller portions throughout the week.”

Regular exercise can also deal a determining blow to high cholesterol levels.

UK health guidelines say to aim for 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
  • Swimming
  • Cycling.

You can always try a few different exercises to find something you like doing. You’re more likely to keep doing it if you enjoy it.

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