High cholesterol symptoms: Can you smell that? The smelly warning sign of high cholesterol

High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips

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High cholesterol is when you have too much of a fatty substance called LDL cholesterol in your blood. LDL cholesterol is often dubbed the “bad” cholesterol because it can gum up your arteries, thereby raising your risk of heart disease. Unfortunately, this process often goes undetected – but not always.

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Research suggests changes in your sensory functions can indicate high cholesterol levels.

Researchers in a study published in the Journal of Nutrition examined the association between taste and smell dysfunction and blood cholesterol concentrations.

They used a questionnaire to assess chronic smell and taste dysfunction in 12,627 Chinese participants (10,418 men and 2209 women).

Participants were categorised into three groups based on the number of smell and taste dysfunctions, ranging from 0 (best) to 2 (worst).

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A general linear model was used to test differences in serum concentrations of total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, and triglycerides (another form of fat) across groups with different smell and taste status after adjusting for age, sex, education, occupation, smoking, drinking, obesity, and history of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and head injury.

A general linear model is a useful framework for comparing how several variables affect different continuous variables.

The researchers found the prevalence of smell and taste dysfunction was 2.4 percent and 1.2 percent, respectively.

Worse smell and taste dysfunction was associated with higher total cholesterol concentrations.

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“In this large cross-sectional study, chemosensory dysfunction was associated with higher serum total cholesterol concentrations among Chinese adults,” the researchers concluded.

Chemosensor is a medical term for the perception of chemical substances, as in odour detection.

How to diagnose high cholesterol

It is worth noting that most people will not experience any perceptible warning signs.

You can only find out if you have high cholesterol from getting a blood test.

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“Your GP might suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high,” explains the NHS.

“This may be because of your age, weight or another condition you have (like high blood pressure or diabetes).”

How to lower high cholesterol

You can lower your cholesterol levels by improving your lifestyle.

There are several foods which are not just part of a healthy diet, they can actively help to lower your cholesterol too.

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“Cutting down on saturated fat and replacing some of it with unsaturated fats is a great way to lower your cholesterol,” explains cholesterol charity Heart UK.

Saturated fat is the kind of fat found in butter, lard, ghee, fatty meats and cheese.

Foods containing unsaturated fats include:

  • Vegetable oils such as olive, sunflower, corn, rapeseed, nut and seed oils
  • Avocado, nuts and seeds
  • Fat spreads made from vegetable oils, such as sunflower and olive oil
  • Oily fish.

“Oily fish are a good source of healthy unsaturated fats, specifically a type called omega-3 fats,” adds Heart UK.

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