High cholesterol symptoms: Three warning signs of ‘critical limb ischaemia’ – expert

High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips

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Speaking exclusively to Express.co.uk, Dr Rodney Foale explained there are two type of cholesterol: high-density lipoprotein and low-density lipoprotein. The former is considered “good” cholesterol, as it reduces the risk of heart problems or a stroke. Meanwhile, the latter is known as “bad” cholesterol because it can lead to blockages in the arteries, causing life-threatening health conditions.

Having more bad than good cholesterol is damaging but, in the early stages, “there are no clear signs”.

Classified as a “hidden risk factor”, over time, high cholesterol can lead to atherosclerosis (where the arteries become blocked) and peripheral artery disease.

“While peripheral artery disease is not necessarily life-threatening, the process of atherosclerosis that causes it can sometimes lead to serious (and often fatal) problems,” warned Dr Foale.

One such example is “critical limb ischaemia”, that Dr Foale explained “occurs if the blood flow to the legs becomes severely restricted”.

Critical limb ischaemia can cause the skin on the leg to turn “pale, shiny, smooth and dry”.

Another indication of the life-threatening complication is when there are “open sores on your feet and legs that do not heal”

Severely disrupted blood flow to the lower limbs may also lead to a “loss of muscle mass in your legs”.

There are other indications of critical limb ischaemia, such as:

  • A severe burning pain in your legs and feet that continues even when you’re resting
  • The skin on your toes or lower limbs becoming cold and numb.

If the skin on the toes and lower limbs turn red, then black, swell, and produce pus, gangrene – the death of tissue – is the likely culprit.

Dr Foale added: “An angioplasty or bypass graft is usually the recommended treatment, however in some cases amputation below the knee may be necessary.

“If you think you’re developing symptoms of ‘critical limb ischaemia’, you should contact your GP urgently for diagnosis.”

Before enabling high cholesterol to cause such long-lasting consequences, it’s best to get on top of it in the earliest of stages.

Whether you know if you have high cholesterol or not, adopting a healthy lifestyle is key to bring down cholesterol levels.

For instance, you must eat a balanced diet, do regular exercise, and take medication if needed.

“Cholesterol-lowering drugs, known as Statins, are the current standard of treatment and are commonly used in addition to these lifestyle changes,” said Dr Foale.

“However exciting new developments in drug treatment options are being introduced.”

Dr Foale continued: “At The Harley Street Clinic, we can offer patients a new type of medicine – PCSK9 inhibitors – which are a new type of medicine for lowering cholesterol in the blood.

“At the moment they are rather limited in their availability to the general population, but we do have them in specialist lipid clinics like ours.

“We can enrol patients into research studies and prescribe them too.

“At present, they can only be prescribed by specialist cardiologists that are experts in this field, so it’s really exciting that we are able to do this.”

Dr Rodney Foale is the Consultant Cardiologist at The Harley Street Clinic, part of HCA Healthcare UK.

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