Cholesterol is a fatty substance produced by the liver that brings many important health benefits, such as making hormones and building cell membranes. High cholesterol means you have too much of the “bad” cholesterol. This is known as LDL cholesterol. It clings to the inside of arteries, thereby raising the risk of a blockage that can lead to a heart attack.
When arteries become blocked by cholesterol, it often represents the first warning signs.
When this blockage takes place in the arteries outside of the heart, it is called peripheral Artery Disease (PAD).
According to Cardiovascular Institute of the South (CIS), this most commonly occurs in the legs.
“Although there may be no physical signs at all, there are some symptoms that have been noted to occur with PAD,” explains CIS.
“Your GP might suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high,” explains the NHS.
According to the health body, this may be because of your age, weight or another condition you have (like high blood pressure or diabetes).
There are two ways of having a cholesterol test:
- Taking blood from your arm
- Finger-prick test.
“If you have high cholesterol, a doctor or nurse will talk to you about how you can lower it,” explains the NHS.
This might include things like changing your diet or upping the amount of exercise you do.
There are several foods which are not just part of a healthy diet, they can actively help to lower your cholesterol too.
The optimal approach is to cut down on saturated fat and replace some of it with unsaturated fats, according to cholesterol charity Heart UK.
Saturated fats are found in many foods, both sweet and savoury. Most of them come from animal sources, including meat and dairy products, as well as some plant foods.
Instead, opt for unsaturated fats such as:
- Vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower, corn, rapeseed, nut and seed oils
- Avocado, nuts and seeds
- Fat spreads made from vegetable oils, such as sunflower and olive oil
- Oily fish.
“Oily fish are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, specifically a type called omega-3 fats,” notes Heart UK.
According to the health body, you should aim to eat two portions of fish per week, at least one of which should be oily.
“A portion is 140g, but you could have two or three smaller portions throughout the week.”