Friday, 22 Sep 2023

The symptom of high cholesterol that ‘mainly’ strikes the foot

This Morning's Dr Chris discusses the signs of high cholesterol

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High cholesterol does not directly cause any obvious symptoms. But there are several conditions you can develop that signal the level of “bad” cholesterol in your blood is too high. Peripheral artery disease (PAD) is one such condition that “mainly” strikes your legs and feet. It may leave you with some extremely striking symptoms, including pins and needles.

High cholesterol is when you’ve got too much cholesterol in your blood. It can lead to your arteries become blocked if the substance deposits on the walls of the blood vessels – known as plaque.

Over time, plaques start to harden and narrow the opening of your arteries. This prevents blood from flowing through them.

The buildup of plaques, termed atherosclerosis, can culminate in heart disease or stroke.

But it may also affect the arteries in your limbs, which is known as PAD. The condition is often a warning sign that atherosclerosis is occurring elsewhere.

The Heart Research Institute UK explained: “Having PAD may indicate that there is more widespread atherosclerosis in the body.

“PAD can happen in any blood vessel, but it mainly occurs in the arteries leading to the legs and feet.”

The condition leaves some strange sensations. You might notice pain that comes and goes during activity and rest, explains the Heart Research Institute.

Or you may notice numbness, pins, and needles, often coupled with a cold sensation in the body part where arteries are blocked.

Some people experience blue or purple-tinged skin due to the lack of blood flow in their limbs. Others may develop red toes.

The Advanced Foot & Ankle Care Specialists explained: “Red or blue toes, tingling in the feet, and unexpected hair loss on the legs may all point to circulation issues.”

Very noticeable symptoms include developing sores or ulcers in the part of your body affected, says the HRI. Blackened areas of skin or loss of skin may also develop.

How to find out if you have PAD

A doctor will normally diagnose the condition after a physical examination. This will involve comparing the blood pressure in your arm and ankle.

The NHS states: “Many people mistakenly think this is just part of growing older, but there’s no reason why an otherwise healthy person should experience leg pain.”

If you have symptoms of PAD, you’re more likely to have severe health problems such as heart disease.

The symptoms that atherosclerosis has occurred in the arteries leading to your heart are chest pain, tightness, pressure, or discomfort – known as angina.

It may also cause you to have the following symptoms:

  • Pain in the neck, jaw, throat, upper belly area, or back
  • Shortness of breath

But heart disease has many similar symptoms to a heart attack. You should seek emergency medical care if you have chest pain, shortness of breath or if you are fainting explains the Mayo Clinic.

If you haven’t got any major symptoms but you’re still worried about high cholesterol, you can speak to your GP who may suggest having a blood test.

You are more likely to have high cholesterol if you eat lots of fatty foods, don’t exercise enough, and have other unhealthy behaviours such as smoking and drinking alcohol.

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