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High cholesterol: Smell that? Two 'worse' smells that signal 'higher' cholesterol levels


Cholesterol is not innately harmful. In fact, the waxy substance helps to build healthy cells. However, high cholesterol – whereby you have too much cholesterol in your blood – can clog up your arteries and this can prove life-threatening. Unfortunately, high cholesterol does not usually throw out warning signs, which makes it pernicious.

This is not always the case. Growing evidence has tied high cholesterol levels to perceptible changes in the body.

Some of the most conspicuous changes fall into the category of sensory dysfunctions, namely smell and test.

In a study published in The Journal of Nutrition, two “worse” smell dysfunctions were associated with “higher” cholesterol levels.

Researchers examined the association between taste and smell dysfunction and blood cholesterol concentrations.

READ MORE: High cholesterol: Pain in three areas of the body signals high levels – do not ‘dismiss’

Smell and taste dysfunction was assessed with the use of a questionnaire.

In regards to smell dysfunction, all participants were asked the following question: Do you have any problems with your sense of smell, such as not being able to smell things or things not smelling the way they are supposed to for up to?

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

Researchers recorded differences in concentrations of total cholesterol 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.

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The researchers found “worse smell and taste dysfunction was associated with higher total cholesterol concentration”.

They also found associations between chemosensory dysfunction and total cholesterol concentrations were more pronounced in participants younger than 60 and in those who were nonsmokers relative to their counterparts.

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

Getting tested

More often than not, high cholesterol will not present symptoms, so the only way of testing for high cholesterol is to take a blood test.

According to the NHS, your GP might suggest having a test if they think your cholesterol level could be high.

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

The health body advises asking your GP surgery for a cholesterol test if you have not had a test before and you’re over 40, overweight, or have high cholesterol or heart problems run in your family.

If the above applies to you, you’re more likely to have high cholesterol.

How to lower high cholesterol

The two most important pillars of cholesterol control are diet and exercise.

“Healthy eating can make a huge difference to your cholesterol levels and your heart health, whether your cholesterol has crept up over the years or you have a genetic condition,” explains cholesterol charity Heart UK.

According to the charity, eating too much saturated fat will raise your cholesterol.

“Cut down on foods high in saturated fat and replace them with foods higher in unsaturated fat,” it advises.

Most foods high in saturated fats come from animals, as well as coconut products.

For example:

  • Dairy foods such as cream, cheese and full fat milk and yoghurt
  • Butter and other solid fats such as ghee, lard and hard margarine
  • Fatty and processed meats such as sausages and bacon.
  • Coconut and palm oil.



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