As cholesterol levels creep upwards, the waxy substance is deposited onto the walls of the arteries. This process contributes to the hardening and narrowing of arteries, putting millions at the daily period of heart attack and stroke. Occasionally, lipids are deposited in the tendons as well, causing a condition known as tendon xanthomas.
Tendon xanthomas are cholesterol molecules in the tendons that slowly appear as subcutaneous nodules attached to the tendon or ligaments.
The dorsal surface of the hand and the Achilles tendons are the two body parts most commonly affected.
The presence of the nodules has been confirmed as a clinical sign of familial hyper-cholesterolaemia in various studies.
Charlie Waugh, a research fellow at the University of British Columbia and Queen Mary University of London, said: “Just as the low-density lipoprotein, or LDL, builds up in blood vessels, this same type of cholesterol can accumulate in the tendons.
“These build-ups result in pain, restrict mobility, or even cause the tendon to rupture.
“Although we know that there is a link between high cholesterol and tendon injury, we don’t know the reasons for this association.
“Our aim is to enhance our understanding of how high cholesterol impact tendon health, healing and function.”
Using a rat model, Charlie Waugh and her team found that tendon health was significantly affected by the presence of lipids.
The scientist also found that the tendons of rats with high cholesterol healed differently from those of the low-cholesterol rodents, according to the Community Research and Development Information Service (CORDIS).
Waugh noted: “Our original plan was to use human tissue leftover from tendon surgery, but we quickly found this to be unsuitable for examining the questions we have.
“We ran into the same issue with cadavers material, which was our backup plan.
“We demonstrated that tendon cells in high cholesterol environments behave differently, exhibiting inferior wound healing characteristics and expressing a different matte of genes in the inflammatory and repair processes.”
Rodents in the high cholesterol group also showed pronounced signs of straining in their Achilles tendon, putting them at risk of strain-related injury.
How to lower cholesterol levels
High cholesterol levels require significant lifestyle changes, but diet is arguable the most important.
According to Kathy McManus, director of the Department of Nutrition at Brigham and Women’s Hospital, self-deprivation isn’t the answer.
The goal is to emphasise foods that boost good cholesterol levels, which withhold the power to lower bad cholesterol levels.
Good cholesterol, medically known as high-density lipoprotein, helps rid the body of excess cholesterol so it’s less likely to end up in your arteries.
Different foods lower cholesterol in different ways, but some of the most effective comprise soluble fibre, which drags harmful lipids out of the body.
Studies have also shown that diets that include oats, almonds, soy and plant sterols, significantly reduce cholesterol in weeks.