Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: High cholesterol can be a pain

Heart Beat

High cholesterol can be a pain

Pain in the Achilles tendon that isn't triggered by strain or an injury could be a sign of a genetic condition that can cause sky-high cholesterol levels. In people with this often overlooked condition, known as heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia, cholesterol deposits can build up in tendons in the fingers, elbows, knees, and feet; the Achilles tendon at the back of the heel is one of the most common sites.

British researchers found that 47% of their patients with heterozygous familial hypercholesterolemia had one or more episodes of pain in an Achilles tendon that lasted three days or more, compared with 7% of people without the condition. These episodes often occurred years before the people were diagnosed with high cholesterol.

Some sports or activities can harm the Achilles tendon, as can wearing the wrong shoes. If you have pain in this important tendon and there doesn't seem to be a logical reason for it, having your cholesterol checked is a good idea.

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