Sores on your legs could point to high cholesterol levels – expert

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

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High cholesterol is often dubbed the “silent killer” due to its ability to quietly wreak havoc in your arteries. However, some symptoms can emerge once the fatty substance accumulates in your arteries. One telltale sign of this process can present as sores.

Leaving your high cholesterol levels untreated can trigger plaque build-up in your arteries.

According to a health portal Saint Luke’s, this plaque is a waxy material made up of cholesterol as well as other things.

The problems strike down once you have too much of this waxy material in your blood which causes your arteries to narrow, limiting your blood flow.

Once your arteries constrict, the blood flow to your legs also takes a hit, triggering the warning sign.

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The lack of blood flow to your legs can sometimes lead to a condition known as critical limb ischaemia (CLI).

Classed as “extremely serious”, CLI can be “challenging to treat”, according to the NHS.

However, this “critical” problem doesn’t occur without your body ringing alarm bells.

One tell-tale sign of CLI is open sores on your legs and feet, also known as ulcers.

While you might scrape your skin or sustain a small injury on your legs, ulcers triggered by cholesterol are characterised by not healing.

Other changes that might crop up on your legs and feet are skin becoming cold and numb, or turning red and then black.

According to the NHS, the full list of symptoms to be aware of includes:

  • Severe burning pain in your legs and feet that continues even when you’re resting
  • Your skin turning pale, shiny, smooth and dry
  • Wounds and ulcers (open sores) on your feet and legs that do not heal
  • Loss of muscle mass in your legs
  • The skin on your toes or lower limbs becoming cold and numb, turning red and then black, and/or beginning to swell and produce smelly pus, causing severe pain (gangrene).

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It’s crucial to “contact a GP immediately” if you start developing symptoms like these.

If you can’t get in touch with your doctor, the NHS advises phoning 111 or your local out-of-hours service as CLI is an “extremely serious” problem.

In some cases, amputation below your knee may be required to treat this daunting condition.

While high cholesterol can lead to CLI, it’s important to remember that the fatty substance rarely triggers warning signs. The most reliable way of finding out your levels is through a blood test.

How to lower high cholesterol

From a healthy diet to exercise, the good news is that there are different lifestyle interventions available for retrieving your levels from the red zone.

A cholesterol-busting diet requires lowering your intake of saturated fat – think sausages, butter, biscuits and cheese.

Other lifestyle changes like exercise, quitting smoking and drinking less alcohol could be also beneficial.

However, your doctor might prescribe a medication called statins to prevent further problems.

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