Illustration: Jose Luis Merino
Elbows, knees, hands and feet
The appearance of soft, yellowish bumps (called xanthomas) on your body—particularly on your elbows, knees, hands, and feet—can indicate dangerously high cholesterol levels, which increase your risk for cardiovascular problems including heart disease and stroke. These growths, which are painless and can range from very small to wider than three inches, are actually fat deposits that build up under the skin, often when an excess amount of lipids—due to either a genetic condition or a high-fat diet—accumulates in your blood.
Protect Yourself: Nearly 54 million women have high or borderline-high cholesterol, with 19 million falling in the high range. But while maintaining a healthy diet can certainly help keep cholesterol under control, when it comes to lowering your levels of LDL (the bad kind), exercise is critical. A 2009 study in the Journal of Lipid Research found that women who walked one extra hour or jogged an additional 30 minutes per week lowered their LDL levels by 3 percent or more. They also saw an increase in their levels of HDL (the good kind). Even better news: Once cholesterol is back in a healthy range, xanthomas may start to clear up.