High Cholesterol Has An Unexpected Link To This Painful Condition

Everyone needs to keep an eye on their cholesterol levels, even when you're young. While an optimal total cholesterol level is 150 mg/dL, problems can emerge when your cholesterol begins to creep over 200, or when your LDL is 130 or higher. What a high LDL cholesterol level means is that you have a lot of this fat-like substance that can build up in your arteries. Over time, this cholesterol can park itself along your artery walls, making the arteries more narrow and less elastic. That makes it harder for oxygen-rich blood to reach your organs and muscles.

When you have high cholesterol, you could develop conditions such as high blood pressure, peripheral arterial disease, coronary heart disease, and stroke. Another condition that you may not realize can be aggravated by untreated high cholesterol is gout. Although gout is associated with high levels of uric acid in the blood, gout and high cholesterol are both associated with how your body metabolizes food, particularly fat.

The link between gout and high cholesterol

Gout is a form of arthritis that develops when your kidneys can't handle the excess amount of uric acid in your system. A gout attack occurs when uric acid crystals form and settle into your joints, usually the big toe. Gout attacks can last for a week or two, and they can be quite painful for gout sufferers.

High lipid levels in your blood are linked to more gout attacks. A 2019 article in BMJ studied 68 patients with gout–some had high cholesterol and high triglycerides while others had normal lipid levels. The people with high cholesterol had significantly more gout attacks than those with normal cholesterol levels. Similarly, having high triglycerides also increases your risk of having more gout attacks. A 2022 study in the Journal of Personalized Medicine matched the health data of more than 16,000 people who had gout with more than 66,000 people who did not. People with gout were 50% more likely to also have a history of high cholesterol than people without gout.

It might be possible that high levels of uric acid could increase your risk of developing high cholesterol, according to a 2018 study in the International Journal of Cardiology. After adjusting for age, BMI, smoking, and drinking habits, healthy people who had high levels of serum uric acid were more likely to see higher LDL cholesterol levels five years later.

Managing gout is similar to managing high cholesterol

Gout is often linked to conditions such as high blood pressure, heart attack, and stroke. Obesity, chronic kidney disease, and psoriasis can increase your risk of gout. Controlling gout or limiting the uric acid in your body starts with taking a look at the purines in your diet. Sugary foods (especially high fructose corn syrup), organ meats, red meat, and some seafood have purines that are broken down into urate (Here's what food you should eat and avoid for gout). You can help your kidneys filter excess uric acid by drinking plenty of water.

Managing both gout and high cholesterol requires keeping a healthy weight, especially since obesity can boost levels of uric acid in the body. You'll also need to exercise regularly to control gout and high cholesterol. Smoking makes both conditions worse, so enrolling in a smoking cessation program can improve your health. Some alcohol has purines, but alcohol also hinders the ability of your kidneys to remove uric acid from your system. Alcohol also raises your cholesterol levels and eventually weakens your liver's ability to metabolize cholesterol.