More than two in five people in England have high cholesterol with around 6.5 million adults currently taking medication to lower their lipid levels, according to the NHS. This puts them at significant risk of developing heart disease, a condition that kills an average of 140,000 people in England each year. Doctors have warned that high levels of bad cholesterol could also lead to amputation if signs are found in the limps.
‘Next cardiovascular epidemic’
High cholesterol is often referred to as the ‘silent killer’ because it hardly presents with symptoms. The surest way to determine if your lipid levels are high is to get tested, but doctors say there could be warning signs in your arms, legs and feet. This is because, excess cholesterol tends to accumulate in the blood vessels, resulting in clogging which produces pain in the body.
If left untreated, this could develop into Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD), a condition that causes pain and discomfort in the hands and feet, making it difficult to walk, The Mirror stated. Assistant professor in the division of vascular surgery at Emory University School of Medicine, Dr Shipra Arya says:
PAD is the next cardiovascular epidemic. It is characterized by the same arterial stiffening and plaque formation as heart disease. When blood flow to the legs is compromised due to these plaques/cholesterol deposits, it can lead to amputations.
How do you know you have it?
PAD reduces blood flow to your legs and hands, rendering mundane activities such as walking and the use of one’s hands difficult. The Mirror quoted Westfield Foot and Ankle as saying:
With PAD, walking may be painful. You could notice cramps when you move, but they should go away with rest. The skin on your legs and feet may change colours. In many cases, lifestyle changes can improve PAD symptoms.
Men between the ages of 20 and 39 tend to be at higher risk of high cholesterol than women in that same age range, but this is reversed among older people.
Apart from heart disease, high cholesterol also increases the risk of stroke, diabetes and high blood pressure. It can be managed through medication or lifestyle changes.