High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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Cholesterol is not intrinsically bad. On the contrary, the waxy substance produced by your liver forms one of the building blocks of healthy cell tissue. However, high cholesterol means you have too much of the “bad” type” and this can cause all manner of complications.
Most people do not experience symptoms of high cholesterol so it’s easy to not connect the dots between bodily complaints and high cholesterol.
However, consistently high cholesterol levels can clog up the arteries that supply blood to the extremities and this can cause symptoms.
This process, known as peripheral artery disease (PAD), can cause mild leg pain known as “claudication”.
People often attribute this type of mild leg pain to “getting older and slowing down”, explained Andy Lee, MD, an Instructor in Medicine at Harvard Medical School.
Speaking to Beth Israel Deaconess Medical Center (BIDMC), he continued: “But claudication is an indication that narrowed arteries may be reducing blood flow to the legs.”
Other signs of poor blood flow in the lower limbs include:
- Loss of leg hair
- Foot ulcers that don’t heal.
How to respond
The NHS says: “You should see a GP if you experience recurring leg pain when exercising.”
As the health body reiterates, many people mistakenly think this is just part of growing older, but there’s no reason why an otherwise healthy person should experience leg pain.
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Keeping cholesterol complications at bay
To prevent PAD and other cholesterol-related complications, you should reduce high cholesterol levels.
Lifestyle changes can help improve your cholesterol – and boost your overall heart health.
A few changes in your diet can reduce cholesterol and improve your heart health and the most consequential is reducing your saturated fat intake.
“Saturated fats, found primarily in red meat and full-fat dairy products, raise your total cholesterol,” warns the Mayo Clinic.
Instead, you should opt for unsaturated fats, which are found in vegetable oils, avocados and oily fish.
According to cholesterol charity Heart UK, oily fish are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, specifically a type called omega-3 fats.
“Aim to eat two portions of fish per week, at least one of which should be oily,” advises the charity.
“A portion is 140g, but you could have two or three smaller portions throughout the week.”
Regular exercise is also integral to reducing high cholesterol levels.
According to UK health guidelines, you should aim to do at least 150 minutes (2.5 hours) of exercise a week.
Some good things to try when starting out include:
- Walking – try to walk fast enough so your heart starts beating faster
“Try a few different exercises to find something you like doing. You’re more likely to keep doing it if you enjoy it,” suggest the NHS.
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