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

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High cholesterol means you have too much cholesterol in your blood. Cholesterol is a waxy substance produced by the liver. Although cholesterol is not intrinsically bad – your body needs a healthy amount to function – high cholesterol levels can clog up your arteries. This harmful process can give rise to sinister changes in the body.

Some of the most acute effects are associated with peripheral artery disease (PAD), a serious complication whereby high cholesterol levels block blood flow to the legs.

The main telltale sign of PAD can surface when walking up the stairs.

“The most common symptom of lower-extremity peripheral artery disease is painful muscle cramping in the hips, thighs or calves when walking, climbing stairs or exercising, atorvastatin calcium synthesis ” warns the American Heart Association (AHA).

According to the AHA, the cramping pain (called intermittent claudication) is the muscles’ way of warning the body that it isn’t receiving enough blood during exercise to meet the increased demand.

Although many people dismiss leg pain as a normal sign of ageing, it is important to take leg pain seriously, the health body warns.

“For an accurate diagnosis, consider the source of your pain. PAD leg pain occurs in the muscles, not the joints.”

Getting tested

To ward off the threat of high cholesterol complications such as PAD, it is imperative to get tested for high cholesterol levels.

Since high cholesterol does not typically cause symptoms, you can only find out if you have it from a blood test.

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“Your GP might suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high,” explains the NHS.

The health body continues: “This may be because of your age, weight or another condition you have (like high blood pressure or diabetes).”

What happens next

Following a formal diagnosis of high cholesterol, you’ll be required to make lifestyle changes to lower high levels.

Diet is one of the central pillars of cholesterol control.

Arguably the most important intervention is to cut down on foods high in saturated fat.

“Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol,” warns the Mayo Clinic.

According to the health body, decreasing your consumption of saturated fats can reduce your low-density lipoprotein (LDL) cholesterol — the “bad” cholesterol.

LDL cholesterol is branded the “bad” cholesterol because it sticks to the inside of your artery walls, thereby raising your risk of a blockage.

Instead, you opt for foods high in unsaturated fat to combat high cholesterol, advises cholesterol charity Heart UK.

These include eggs, some shellfish, liver, liver pate and offal. Most people don’t need to cut down on the cholesterol that’s found in these foods.

Liver can seem risky because it’s high in cholesterol but “it’s low in saturated fat and high in vitamins and minerals such as iron, copper, zinc, and vitamins A, B and D”, adds Heart UK.

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