High cholesterol: Nutritionist reveals top prevention tips
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Low-density lipoprotein is a type of cholesterol that collects on the inner surface of the arterial walls, contributing to the formation of plaque. This is problematic for a number of reasons, but the risk of breakages is the main concern. Occasionally, molecules become dislodged from the lining and travel down the arteries, causing minor obstructions known as cholesterol embolism. This could cause the emergence of small spots around the nail, according to certain health bodies.
Cholesterol molecules play an important role in cell function, but they have been known to cause various issues too.
Cholesterol embolism is a gradual process that damages organs progressively over time, so symptoms are rarely acute.
The condition describes a cholesterol crystal that has travelled through the bloodstream and becomes lodged inside a smaller blood vessel.
The cholesterol emboli are small, yellowish, reflective and often multiple.
Symptoms will vary depending on which blood vessel is blocked. If the affected vessel leads to a vital organ, severe complications may ensue.
Embolism can cause general symptoms but the warning signs tend to be specific to the affected organ.
Typical sites of organ damage due to cholesterol embolism include the brain, eyes, skin, muscles, kidneys and gastrointestinal tract.
The feet also commonly present with symptoms, and these should be addressed swiftly to prevent further problems or death.
Research suggests the condition should be suspected in anyone with worsening renal function, or people who develop small spots around their fingernails.
Other common signs include kidney failure, blue or purple toes, skin ulcers, and gangrene.
One of the most concerning signs of an embolism is arguably sudden blindness.
If the blockage worsens, so will symptoms.
Occasionally, the embolism will occur in the aorta – the largest artery in the body which carries blood away from the heart.
In this scenario, surgical therapy may be necessary to remove the blocking materials.
“A high index of suspicion is imperative because the signs and symptoms of cholesterol embolism are often atypical, unrecognised, not temporally correlated with the onset of physical findings, and or simply overlooked,” explains Medscape.
What’s more, there is no laboratory testing designated for cholesterol embolism, so a thorough physical examination is critical.
Who’s at risk?
“Any risk factor for the atherosclerotic disease is a risk factor for cholesterol embolism,” explains Medscape.
This includes several comorbid conditions such as hypertension, hyperlipidemia, diabetes, tobacco use and peripheral vascular disease.
The condition also typically afflicts people who are middle-aged or elderly.
“Men are at higher risk than women are. As the population ages, the incidence of the syndrome will increase,” adds Medscape.
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