The presence of cholesterol molecules in the bloodstream can become a major hindrance to vascular health if poorly managed. Often, the condition runs its course for years without producing warning signs. As inflammation levels rise, however, complications can occur in the tendons.
The Foot Doc explains: “Tendons connect your muscles to your bones and are made up of tough fibrous material.
“They service as tension bands that help your muscles and bones work together during movement.”
The connective tissue is found everywhere in the body, but the Achilles tendons are the strongest of them all.
These are located at the back of the leg and connect the calf to the heel bones, bearing the entirety of a person’s body weight.
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“Tendon problems can arise from a sudden injury or repetitive movement. We can now add high cholesterol to the list that puts your tendons at risk,” adds the Foot Doc.
In addition to its role in atherosclerosis, several studies have shown that high levels of LDL cholesterol could increase rates of tendinopathy.
This is likely due to an accumulation of LDL cholesterol within a tendon’s extracellular matrix.
Low-grade inflammation spurred by cholesterol can cause pain in the tendons and make them increasingly susceptible to injury over time.
Though the link between high cholesterol and Achilles tendinopathy is believed to occur primarily through inflammation, the blood lipids may also alter the structure of tendons.
“Researchers theorise that cholesterol deposits may lead to structural changes that weakened tendons,” adds the Foot Doc.
“In studies, people with high cholesterol showed tendon abnormalities, such as abnormal Achilles thickness, while participants with normal cholesterol did not.”
In Achilles tendinopathy, irritation of the tendons aches or sharp pains that may worsen when a person has been active.
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Sometimes patients complain of stiffness in their tendons.
“Often this is worse first thing in the morning or if you’ve been resting for a while,” explains the health body Bupa.
Swelling at the back of the ankle can become apparent, or tenderness when you touch your tendon.
What’s more, people sometimes pick up a grating noise or creasing feeling when they move their ankles.
How to manage high cholesterol
The most common cause of Achilles tendinopathy is repeated stress on the Achilles tendon over time.
This can change the structure of the tendon by inflicting minor tears, which make it increasingly weaker.
“Any sports or activities that put stress on your Achilles tendon can lead to Achilles tendinopathy,” warns Bupa.
“This includes running and anything that involves jumping – for example, dancing, gymnastics, squash and tennis.”