High cholesterol is often dubbed a “silent killer” because it can wreak havoc in your arteries without showing any warning signs. Leaving the fatty substance untreated can cause an accumulation of plaques in your arteries, hiking your risk of heart disease and stroke. One tell-tale sign of this process is claudication.
High cholesterol doesn’t extend any kindness to your arteries, promoting plaque build-up in this area.
Apart from cholesterol, plaques are a mix of fatty substances, cellular waste products, calcium as well as fibrin.
Once this dangerous cocktail overtakes your blood vessels, they become hard and stiff.
This creates less-than-ideal conditions for your blood flow and your legs can take the hit, triggering the “first noticeable” sign.
This lack of blood flow in your legs can sometimes spur on a condition known as peripheral artery disease (PAD), according to the Cleveland Clinic.
The “first noticeable symptom” triggered by PAD is intermittent claudication.
Claudication describes pain caused by too little blood flow to muscles during exercise.
Most often this pain strikes in your legs after walking and goes away with rest.
However, your legs aren’t the only area that can be hit by claudication. According to the Mayo Clinic, this pain can also crop up in calves, thighs, buttocks, hips and feet.
Sometimes this pesky pain even occurs in your shoulders, biceps and forearms.
Claudication can make these areas feel numb, weak, heavy and tired, the Cleveland Clinic explains.
“Both legs are often affected at the same time, although the pain may be worse in one leg.”
Apart from claudication in these five areas, PAD can also cause symptoms, including:
- Burning or aching pain in your feet and toes while resting, especially at night while lying flat
- Cool skin on your feet
- Redness or other colour changes of your skin
- More frequent skin and soft tissue infections (usually in your feet or legs)
- Toe and foot sores that don’t heal.
Unfortunately, peripheral artery disease doesn’t always cause many noticeable symptoms which makes the condition hard to identify, just like high cholesterol.
This silent nature makes a blood test the most reliable way of determining high cholesterol levels.
A cholesterol-lowering food regime starts with cutting down on saturated fat – think cheese, butter, sausages and biscuits. However, upping your intake of soluble fibre could also help lower the fatty culprit.
Other helpful lifestyle tweaks include exercise, cutting back on alcohol, and quitting smoking.