High cholesterol: The smelly warning sign of high cholesterol which is 'challenging to treat'

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  1. High cholesterol may give light to unusual signs

    One of the top risk factors of heart diseases, including heart attack and stroke, high cholesterol is estimated to cause 2.6 million deaths worldwide, as per the World Health Organization (WHO).

    In India alone, high cholesterol has been reported in 25-30% of urban and 15-20% rural subjects. The most common dyslipidemia, which is the imbalance of lipids such as cholesterol, low-density lipoprotein cholesterol, (LDL-C), triglycerides, and high-density lipoprotein (HDL), in India are borderline high LDL cholesterol, low HDL cholesterol and high triglycerides.

    Poor diet, obesity, physical inactivity, smoking and alcohol consumption are said to be some of the leading factors that increase 'bad' cholesterol levels in the body, making our lifestyle one of the primary culprits.

  2. What is high cholesterol?

    Cholesterol is a waxy substance in the blood that helps build healthy cells in the body. Generally, there are two different types of cholesterol: Low-density lipoprotein (LDL), which are 'bad' cholesterol and High-density lipoprotein (HDL) also known as 'good' cholesterol.

    That said, when there is too much of 'bad' cholesterol in the bloodstream, it can lead to plaque build-up or fatty deposits, which can hamper or block the flow of the blood to various parts of the body. At times, these deposits can break suddenly and can form a clot that causes a heart attack or stroke.

    While high cholesterol can also be inherited, often it is the result of unhealthy lifestyle choices, which make it preventable and treatable. Eating right, indulging in regular physical activity and maintaining a healthy weight are some of the ways your risk can be curbed

  3. A silent killer

    Apart from high blood pressure, high cholesterol is also termed 'the silent killer' because it usually doesn't manifest itself through symptoms. These types of illnesses are dangerous and life-threatening and need close monitoring.

    That said, while an increase in cholesterol levels may not directly kill you, if not diagnosed or treated early, it can increase your chances of developing heart diseases, which can be fatal.

  4. One warning sign of high cholesterol that may get missed

    As discussed, high cholesterol may not show any signs. However, if left untreated for long, it can lead to a condition called atherosclerosis, wherein your arteries become clogged with fatty substances called plaques.

    This can in turn block your arteries and stop the blood flow to your legs, giving light to another condition called peripheral arterial disease (PAD).

    According to the UK's National Health Services (NHS), PAD can cause a smelly warning sign, which is associated with critical limb ischaemia (CLI) - an “extremely serious” complication that can be difficult to treat.

  5. What is critical limb ischaemia (CLI)?

    Critical limb ischemia (CLI) refers to a severe blockage of the arteries in the lower body, which is said to reduce blood-flow. It is a more complicated form of peripheral arterial disease, or PAD, and more uncommon than claudication, pain in the legs or arms that takes place while walking or using the arms.

    Some of the symptoms of CLI include:
    - Numbness or pain in the feet
    - Smooth, shiny and dry skin of the legs or feet
    - Absent or weakened pulse in the lower body
    - Thickening of toenails
    - Sores and skin infections

  6. Beware of peripheral artery disease (PAD)

    According to the Mayo Clinic, peripheral artery disease (PAD) is a common condition in which narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the arms or legs.

    In this condition, the legs and the arms, mostly the legs, get affected and people experience pain while walking or using the arms.

    PAD is usually a sign of fatty deposit build-up in the arteries, also called atherosclerosis.

  7. Other warning signs of PAD

    According to the Mayo Clinic, other peripheral artery disease symptoms may include:
    - Coldness in the lower leg or foot, especially when compared with the other side
    - Numb or weak legs
    - No or a weak pulse in the legs or feet
    - Painful cramping in one or both of the hips, thighs or calf muscles after activities, such as walking or climbing stairs
    - Shiny skin on the legs
    - Skin color changes on the legs
    - Slower growth of the toenails
    - Sores on the toes, feet or legs that won't heal
    - Pain when using the arms
    - Erectile dysfunction
    - Hair loss or slower hair growth on the legs

  8. Get yourself tested

    While high cholesterol does not usually cause symptoms or show signs, it is best to determine your levels through a blood test. Depending on your age, weight and other underlying condition, your doctor may suggest some tests and medications.

    If your test results show cholesterol levels, start making necessary lifestyle changes, including a healthy diet, full of fruits and nutritious greens. Limit foods that are high in saturated fat and include regular exercise to your routine.

  9. What to know

    Lifestyle changes like eating healthy, exercising can not only prevent but treat high cholesterol.

    According to the Mayo Clinic, eating heart-healthy foods i.e. a diet low in saturated fats, high in omega-3 fatty acids and soluble fiber, exercising regularly, quitting smoking and losing weight can lower your cholesterol levels.

    At times, changing your lifestyle may not be enough. It is then that doctors may recommend medications.

  10. Foods to avoid

    According to the Cleveland Clinic, some of the worst foods for high cholesterol include full-fat daily such as whole milk, butter or cheese, red meat, processed meat, friend and oily foods, baked foods, sweets, and more.

    Instead, replace your diet with fresh greens, healthy fruits and fibre-dense foods.

  11. ​Regular medical checkup is essential

    High cholesterol is dubbed as a silent killer. An elevated level of cholesterol does not show any symptoms. Therefore it is essential to get the blood tested so that a small increase in the cholesterol level is checked.

    A small rise in cholesterol can be brought under control through lifestyle changes, dietary habits and exercises.

  12. Heart disease and other risk factors

    High cholesterol is one of the leading risk factors of heart diseases. But apart from 'bad' cholesterol build up in the body, high blood pressure, obesity, diabetes and non-modifiable risk factors like age, gender, race can also make you more prone to cardiovascular illnesses.

    As discussed, the best way to reduce your risk is by switching to a healthier lifestyle, eating clean, exercising regularly and going for frequent health screenings.

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