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‘Extremely’ high cholesterol may show on the skin – the sign that ‘treatment is essential’

High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips

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Cholesterol is a fatty molecule carried by proteins in order to build the structure of cell membranes and aid in the production of hormones. Different subtypes of cholesterol exist, and it is low-density cholesterol that is most problematic. These lipids, and triglycerides, contribute directly to a build-up of plaque inside the arteries, hampering blood flow. If levels skyrocket, this may prompt an eruption on the skin.

Eruptive xanthomatosis is characterised by small bumps that occur in individuals with very high blood lipids.

The small lesions appear on the surface of the skin and can appear yellow, pink, broken or skin coloured.

The colour will vary for different skin tones, but the bumps tend to look shiny or have a yellow/red crust around them.

Although the condition itself is generally harmless, the eruption may sometimes be itchy and painful.

Bumps tend to appear on the backs of the arms and elbows, however, they can also show up on the:

  • Stomach
  • Neck
  • Back
  • Knees
  • Face
  • Scalp

According to the American Academy of Dermatology Association, clusters of waxy bumps that suddenly appear on the skin “may be telling you you have skyrocketing cholesterol levels or diabetes”.

“The sudden appearance of these bumps can look like a rash, warts or a contagious skin condition called molluscum contagiosum,” explains the health body.

“These bumps are actually fatty deposits of cholesterol caused by extremely high levels of triglycerides (a type of cholesterol) in the blood.

“Treatment is essential to lower the triglycerides and treat any serious medical conditions, such as heart disease caused by the high cholesterol levels.”

Eruptive xanthomatosis occurs when a build-up of lipids in the blood causes the fat to leak out and collect in the epidermis.

The main cause is a bad diet, one which typically emphasises fatty foods and a lack of exercise.

Some cases of high cholesterol are genetic, however, as the condition can be passed down from generation to generation.

Fortunately, the majority of cases can be managed with the help of a healthy diet containing ample fibre.

Harvard Health explains: “Different foods lower cholesterol in various ways. Some deliver soluble fibre, which binds cholesterol and its precursors in the digestive system and drags them out of the body before they go into circulation.

“Some give you unsaturated fats, which directly lower LDL and some contain plant sterols and stannous, which block the body from absorbing cholesterol.”

The health body lists the following foods as optimal sources of cholesterol-lowering fibre and sterols:

  • Oats
  • Barley and other whole grains
  • Beans
  • Eggplant and okra
  • Nuts
  • Vegetable oils
  • Apples, grapes, strawberries, citrus fruit
  • Fatty fish
  • Soy

Coupled with exercise, the regular consumption of these foods may offer promising results.

Exercise is important because it can raise levels of HDL, or “good” cholesterol, which removes fat from the arteries.

Most health organisations recommend 30 minutes of moderate to vigorous exercise per day to see a difference in cholesterol levels.

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