High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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High cholesterol means you have too much cholesterol – a waxy substance produced inside the liver – in your arteries. Cholesterol is needed to build healthy cells but having too much of it can clog up your arteries. Unfortunately, symptoms do not typically arise until high cholesterol causes complications.
Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) is a manifestation of cholesterol build-up.
PAD in the legs or lower extremities is the narrowing or blockage of the vessels that carry blood from the heart to the legs.
It is primarily caused by the buildup of fatty plaque, such as cholesterol, in the arteries, which is called atherosclerosis.
PAD can happen in any blood vessel, but it is more common in the legs than the arms.
According to the CDC, there are six “physical” signs of cholesterol build-up in the feet.
Physical signs of PAD in feet include:
- Decreased pulses in the feet
- Absent pulses in the feet
- Sores in the legs or feet that don’t heal
- Ulcers in the legs or feet that don’t heal
- Cold toes
- Numb toes.
Other Physical signs in the leg that may indicate PAD include muscle atrophy (weakness); hair loss; smooth, shiny skin and skin that is cool to the touch, especially if accompanied by pain while walking (that is relieved by stopping walking), says the CDC.
How to reduce your risk
To ward off the threat of PAD and other cholesterol complications, it’s vital to lead a healthy lifestyle.
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You can keep high cholesterol in check by eating healthily and keeping active.
In regards to the former, swapping saturated fats for unsaturated fats can deal a decisive blow to high cholesterol, says cholesterol charity Heart UK.
Examples 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,” says 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.”
UK health guidelines also advise doing 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
High cholesterol does not usually cause symptoms. You can only find out if you have it from a blood test.
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).
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