This Morning's Dr Chris discusses the signs of high cholesterol
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High cholesterol is often the unwanted souvenir of poor lifestyle choices. When you leave the fatty culprit untreated, it can accumulate in your arteries, triggering symptoms. One telltale sign of this build-up can present as hair loss.
Over time, high cholesterol promotes a process called atherosclerosis, which describes plaque piling up in your arteries.
Health portal Saint Luke’s explains: “Plaque is a waxy material made up of cholesterol and other things.
“When you have too much plaque, your arteries can become narrowed and limit blood flow.”
While symptoms of this process might not strike down until further down the line, one part of your body that can hold clues is your legs.
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When your arteries become narrow and your blood flow gets limited, your legs as well as the hair growing in this area can take the hit.
This restricted blood flow in your legs can sometimes lead to a condition known as critical limb ischaemia (CLI).
And one sign that can reveal CLI is hair loss on your legs and feet, according to the NHS. The skin in this area can also appear smooth, shiny, or very dry.
What’s worse, the health service explains that CLI is an “extremely serious” complication that can be “challenging to treat”.
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Apart from changes in the skin, this condition can also cause signs including:
- Severe burning pain in your legs and feet that continues even when you’re resting
- 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).
The NHS urges to “contact a GP immediately” if you think you’re suffering from CLI.
It’s crucial to get medical help promptly as there might be a need for an amputation below the knee in a few cases.
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Although hair loss on your legs could be a sign of a cholesterol build-up, the condition rarely presents with symptoms.
However, you can find out exactly how high or low your cholesterol is by having a blood test.
Your doctor will either draw blood from your arm or perform a finger-prick test which will reveal the amount of the fatty substance circulating in your bloodstream.
Once the substance is revealed, there’s plenty you can do to get your levels to drop.
Although some people might be prescribed a cholesterol-lowering medicine called statins, lifestyle changes can also benefit your levels.
Diet changes for lower cholesterol will entail cutting back on saturated fats found in foods like sausages, butter and biscuits.
However, upping your fibre intake can help block some cholesterol from being absorbed from the intestines into your bloodstream, according to Heart UK.
Other lifestyle tweaks like exercise, quitting smoking and drinking less alcohol, could also help.
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