Research links cholesterol to tendonitis and chronic pain

High cholesterol may cause tendonitis. [Susie Cagle/Flickr]

Chronic pain and tendon inflammation could be directly linked to high cholesterol, according to a study by the University of Canberra. EURACTIV Spain reports

The study, published in the British Journal of Sports Medicine, found that inflammation caused by the accumulation of cholesterol in the cells of the immune system could be a major factor in tendinitis and chronic pain.

After analysing 1,607 scientific articles on the subject, published between 1973 and 2014, the researchers concluded that people with tendon problems tend to have higher levels of fat (lipids) in their blood.

Experts attribute most cases of tendonitis to the “mechanical stress” caused by obesity, excessive body fat and the strain on tendons during sport. But there are many cases where these factors do not apply.

>>Read: MEPs call for action on life-threatening genetic cholesterol

Familial hypercholesterolemia and tendinitis

People who suffer from genetically-inherited high levels of cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia, or FH) are also more likely to suffer from painful and inflamed tendons.

High lipid levels have been linked to tendon injuries and musculoskeletal pain in the arms, and several studies have also shown that they can lead to the development of an overly-dense Achilles tendon.

“Together, these findings provide significant support for a metabolic hypothesis of tendon injury and implicate lipid parameters as a potential link,” the researchers wrote. But they highlighted that this was only an observation, and that they were in no position to form conclusions on the causes and effects of tendon injury.

Cholesterol in Europe

Europe has the highest rate of high cholesterol in the world (54%). While this is one of the major factors behind cardiovascular diseases and diabetes, among other illnesses, the European population is often ill-informed of the need to cut their intake of ‘bad’ cholesterol (LDL), and how this can be done.

A balanced diet, regular exercise and a healthy lifestyle are some factors that can help reduce the risk of high cholesterol.

>>Read: Cholesterol: The overlooked chronic disease

The health profession’s ‘crusade’ against LDL cholesterol stems from a bitter reality: cardiovascular diseases kill around 4 million people in the 53 countries of the World Health Organisation’s European region every year, including almost 1.9 million in the EU’s 28 member states.

A strategy to tackle FH

Spain may soon approve a national plan for the detection of familial hypercholestrolemia, which affects around 100,000 people in the country, according to the FH Foundation in Madrid.

This is important “to avoid premature cardiovascular diseases among the vulnerable population”, a source from the foundation said.

Across Europe, any attempt to establish a coherent strategy is undermined by the lack of information on the subject: less than 1% of European citizens have been diagnosed with FH, whose sufferers often develop serious cardiovascular diseases at young ages.

>>Read: New initiatives launched to address dangerous cholesterol

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