How High Cholesterol Affects Your Legs And Feet

Accumulation of cholesterol can narrow the arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to the legs and feet.

Sambhav Kumar
Written by: Sambhav KumarUpdated at: Mar 11, 2023 15:30 IST
 How High Cholesterol Affects Your Legs And Feet

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According to the American Heart Association, cholesterol is a waxy substance that flows through our bloodstream and is essential to numerous activities that our body performs. 

High cholesterol levels can have a negative impact on the health of our legs and feet. Accumulation of cholesterol can narrow the arteries that carry oxygen-rich blood to the lower limbs. This condition is called peripheral arterial disease or PAD.

"Atherosclerosis, or the buildup of fatty deposits in the arteries, is a prominent cause of PAD", says Dr S Srikanth Raju, Senior Consultant at Yashoda Hospitals, Hyderabad.   

What Is PAD?

Peripheral Arterial Disease (PAD) is a condition in which plaque deposits narrow the arteries in the legs, limiting the blood flow. This can lead to leg and foot pain during physical activities, such as walking or climbing stairs.  As per the Journal of American Medical Association, PAD can also increase the risk of heart attack or stroke. 

According to Centres for Disease Control and Prevention, the following are peripheral arterial disease risk factors:

  • Smoking
  • High blood pressure
  • Atherosclerosis
  • Diabetes
  • High cholesterol

CDC states that peripheral arterial disease is more prevalent in people above 60 years. 

Other risk factors include being overweight, having a family history of cardiovascular disease, and having an inactive lifestyle.

Also read: All About Pulmonary Arterial Hypertension, A Rare But Fatal Disease

Symptoms Of PAD

According to the American Heart Association, if you have PAD then you may experience painful muscle cramps in your hips, thighs, or calves while walking, climbing stairs, or exercising. 

PAD can have a variety of effects on your skin. A report published by the National Centre For Biotechnology states that some people suffering from PAD may detect leg discolouration. 

Treatment Option Of PAD

Treatment of PAD is aimed at reducing risk factors and preventing the progression of the disease.

Dr Srikant recommends participating in a supervised workout regimen can also be an option to treat PAD. Those suffering from severe leg pain should walk for 30 to 60 minutes per day. Walk until the discomfort is moderate, stop or go away completely, and then resume walking.

CDC suggests lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and exercising regularly. Cholesterol-lowering medications and medications to control blood pressure may also be prescribed by a healthcare expert. In some cases, surgery may be necessary to open blocked arteries.

Also read: Peripheral Arterial Disease: Symptoms, Self-Care Measures, Treatments And Expert Opinion


PAD is a serious condition that can lead to stroke and heart attack if left untreated. It is important to seek prompt medical attention if any symptoms of PAD are present. 

Early diagnosis and treatment can help prevent the progression of the disease and reduce the risk of complications.

If you have high cholesterol, it is essential to reduce your cholesterol levels and protect the health of your legs and feet. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, and managing your stress levels can help to reduce cholesterol levels. Your doctor may recommend medications to help lower your cholesterol levels. If you experience any leg or foot pain, it is important to see your doctor for a proper diagnosis and treatment plan.

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