High cholesterol: Symptoms of embolism include purple toes

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High cholesterol is a consequence of many factors but the most impactful is diet. When fatty molecules accumulate on the walls of the arteries, they contribute to the formation of plaque which causes arteries to narrow over time. At this stage, health complications are rife. One sign of severe damage could arise in the feet and toes.

The formation of plaque in the arteries poses a great danger for a host of reasons.

As the arteries narrow, blood flow to the organs decreases, depriving them of key nutrients and oxygen.

What’s more, as plaque builds up inside the arteries, a cholesterol deposit might break off and cause a blockage inside a blood vessel.

This blocked vessel, known as a cholesterol embolus, could be located in the skin or inside an organ, both of which can entail severe consequences.

READ MORE: High cholesterol: The ‘feeling’ in your foot that can signal high cholesterol levels

A cholesterol embolism can present with various manifestations, making it very difficult to diagnose.

Derm Net NZ explains: “A cholesterol embolus refers to the deposit of cholesterol loved into a blood vessel or internal organ.

“This prevents the flow of blood flow through small calibre arteries and causes malfunction or death of the tissue supplied by the affected blood vessel.”

The first signs of an embolus include fever, fatigue, weight loss, muscle pain and a loss of appetite.

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When the condition spreads to the legs, however, it can cause a mottled appearance and purple discolouration of the toes.

Small infarcts and areas of gangrene could also arise as the tissue dies, which could blacken the skin.

And in the worst-case scenario, the appearance of gangrene may necessitate amputation of the toes.

Alternatively, an embolism could damage the organs or tissues that are supplied by the blood vessels.

Those who have left high cholesterol levels untreated for prolonged periods are at higher risk of having atherosclerosis, a precursor of cholesterol embolism.

How to lower cholesterol Statins have become the mainstay of cholesterol treatment, but exercise and diet offer a natural and effective approach.

The Mayo Clinic writes: “Exercise can improve cholesterol. Moderate physical activity can help raise high-density lipoprotein (HDL) cholesterol or “good” cholesterol.”

Foods to avoid include those that contain trans and saturated fats.

Foods that contain high amounts of soluble fibre however have a lowering effect on cholesterol.

This is because fibre binds to lipid molecules inside the digestive tract and drags them out of the body.

What’s more, soy protein can inhibit cholesterol synthesis in the liver, while oats could prevent it from getting reabsorbed into the gut.

Plant sterols can also lower LDL cholesterol levels by racing against molecules for absorption in the small intestines.

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