Sign in your leg that could be a red flag symptom of silent killer condition

Woman with leg cramps
Leg cramping may indicate high cholesterol levels. -Credit:(Image: Getty Images)

Having high cholesterol, or hypercholesterolemia, means there's an excess of the fatty substance called cholesterol in your blood. This condition might not cause immediate problems, but over time it can lead to serious health issues.

Cholesterol can accumulate in the arteries, leading to blockages that prevent blood flow. It's a significant risk factor for cardiovascular disease, which is the world's leading cause of death, claiming nearly 18 million lives each year.

In the UK, cardiovascular disease accounts for about a quarter of all deaths.

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Most people with high cholesterol won't experience any symptoms, which is why it's often referred to as a "silent killer". Many individuals are unaware they have high cholesterol until they face a medical emergency or undergo cholesterol testing by a healthcare professional, reports the Express.

The Cleveland Clinic in the US states: "High cholesterol doesn't cause any symptoms for most people. You could be a marathon runner and have high cholesterol. You won't start to feel any symptoms until the high cholesterol causes other problems in your body."

Nevertheless, there are certain indicators that, if noticed early, could be lifesaving. For instance, the Cleveland Clinic notes that leg cramping may indicate high cholesterol levels.

This indicates that cholesterol has accumulated to such an extent that it has resulted in a plaque build-up in the arteries, known as atherosclerosis. If this happens in vessels in the legs or arms, it's referred to as peripheral artery disease (PAD) - a condition that triggers leg cramps when "moving around".

Such cramping should serve as a warning sign as it suggests the vessels are already significantly blocked. "PAD is dangerous because it often causes no symptoms," the clinic elaborates.

"You might finally start to feel symptoms when a peripheral artery is at least 60 percent blocked. A key symptom is intermittent claudication. This is a leg cramp that starts up when you're moving around but then stops when you rest. It's a sign of reduced blood flow caused by the growing plaque in your artery."

If you have PAD, it may not just be your legs that are affected.

The clinic adds: "PAD can cause major problems in your legs and feet but also elsewhere in your body.

"That's because all your blood vessels are connected through your cardiovascular system. So, plaque buildup in one area slows down your whole network of 'pipes.'".

Having PAD is also linked with a higher risk of coronary heart disease, which is the leading cause of death among cardiovascular diseases in the UK.

If you are worried about your cholesterol levels, you should consult your doctor.