“A certain amount of cholesterol is essential for supplying energy, building the structure of cell membranes, making certain hormones and helping your metabolism work efficiently,” said Doctor Rodney Foale, Consultant Cardiologist at the Harley Street Clinic, part of HCA Healthcare UK. While not all cholesterol is harmful, the type dubbed as “bad” can put your cardiovascular health at risk.
Once your cholesterol levels climb to the danger zone, there’s plenty you can do to retrieve them.
However, leaving them untreated could lead to atherosclerosis, Doctor Foale explained.
He said: “Arteries become blocked with fatty substances called plaques – which can result in heart attack and stroke.”
Apart from heart attacks and strokes, the expert warned that high cholesterol can also trigger a potentially “fatal” condition called critical limb ischaemia.
The doctor said: “The process of atherosclerosis can sometimes lead to serious (and often fatal) problems, such as critical limb ischaemia.
“[This] occurs when the blood flow to the legs becomes severely restricted.”
One warning sign can crop up in your toes in the form of red and black colour.
Doctor Foale explained you can spot it when the skin on your toes or lower limbs becomes “cold and numb, turning red and then black”.
Even though critical limb ischaemia may draw attention to high cholesterol, the condition doesn’t tend to cause many symptoms, making cholesterol difficult to spot.
The expert said: “In general, there are no clear signs that a person’s cholesterol levels are too high.
“It is a hidden risk factor, which means it happens without us knowing.
“If they feel you could be at risk, your GP will refer you for a simple blood test to check your cholesterol – this is the only way to know if your cholesterol is too high.”