There's a reason doctors take high cholesterol so seriously. Hypercholesterolemia, the official name for high cholesterol, is defined as having a total blood cholesterol of 240 mg/dl or higher. Borderline high cholesterol (levels between 200 mg/dl and 239 mg/dl) is also concerning, and affects nearly 40 percent of American adults. High cholesterol increases your risk for heart disease and stroke, but usually has no symptoms, making it a silent killer. There are a few conditions associated with high cholesterol, however, including lipomas, fatty tissue deposits under the skin. Here, Kris Olsen, 57, owner of Finish Line Engraving in Columbus, Ohio, shares her experience dealing with high cholesterol after learning lumps in her breast were really lipomas.
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I discovered lumps in my breast
Some people describe their health as a journey. I'd say mine is more like a roller coaster—plenty of ups and some downs, along with a couple of stomach-dropping turns.
It started about 15 years ago, when I lost my best friend, my dad, and my brother to cancer in the space of three years. I'd spent so much time being a caregiver to my loved ones that I'd put my own well-being on the back burner.
I knew I'd gained some weight and was probably depressed, but I was shocked when I went in for my regular checkup and discovered how bad the numbers on my blood work really were.
Not only was I obese, but my cholesterol, triglycerides, and blood pressure were high, putting me at risk for cardiovascular disease. I knew that obesity raised my cancer risk too. This thought was at the top of my mind when I mentioned to my doctor that I had also found some lumps in my breast and armpit.
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Thankfully, it wasn't breast cancer
Several mammograms later (as if one isn't enough fun!), we determined the lumps were knots of fatty tissue called lipomas.
The great news: the cause wasn't cancer. The not-so-great news: my body was storing excess fat. Lipomas, I later learned, are often correlated with very high cholesterol.
My doc gave me a choice. I could drastically change my lifestyle, or he would put me on prescription meds, and a lot of them. I chose the lifestyle changes option.
I changed my diet and took up running, eventually taking part in a 5K race. Even though I had to walk sometimes, I found running therapeutic and fell in love with the sport. It also helped me mentally. Running became my "me time," and I often cried, meditated, and sang while I worked out.
Over time, I lost the extra weight, the fatty lumps, and four inches of chest and back fat. But even more important, my cholesterol and blood pressure fell to healthy levels.
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For the next decade, I kept up my healthy lifestyle. I thought, possibly naively, that I'd figured this cholesterol thing out.
Then menopause hit like a freight train
In February 2019, at age 55, I had another shocking medical checkup. My cholesterol was 275 mg/dl, a number classified as "extremely high" and dangerous.
I was totally taken aback. I didn't have any symptoms at all! I remember feeling so scared. My mother had a heart attack when I was 16, and I was terrified of following in her footsteps.
The number was so much higher than I thought it would be, and I felt ashamed I'd let myself get to this point. I was in a fog as I listened to my doctor tell me that I needed to get these numbers under control immediately.
High cholesterol is more common in post-menopausal women, but I knew that I couldn't use hormones as an excuse. I admitted that over the past few years I'd really let my diet and exercise habits slip. After getting an injury during a race, I'd stopped running, and I'd been comforting myself with food.
Again I was faced with a choice between going on medication or overhauling my life. Again I chose to change my lifestyle.
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Managing my high cholesterol with diet and exercise
My sports doctor reassured me that I could lower my cholesterol through diet and exercise, and he recommended that I switch to eating a Mediterranean diet full of whole grains, fresh fruits and vegetables, and lean protein.
I love to cook, so I saw this as a fun opportunity to try out new recipes.
Another important factor was staying hydrated—and with the right liquids. I hadn't been drinking much water, so I ditched sodas and juice and started downing water throughout my day. I added slices of lemons, oranges, or cucumbers to make it more fun and the water taste better.
One thing that didn't help me was vinegar. I read on the Internet that drinking apple cider vinegar daily can help lower cholesterol. I never got to find out if it really worked (researchers are still debating this) because I just couldn't stand the taste!
The exercise piece was a bit trickier. I couldn't run like I used to, so my husband surprised me with an indoor bike trainer, and I took up cycling. Eventually I was able to take up running again, and I've rekindled my love for it.
One year later
My checkup in February 2020 went much better. In one year, I'd been able to get my total cholesterol down to 197 mg/dl—that's in the healthy range for my age. I was so proud of my hard work, and today I feel so much healthier and happier.
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But while my story worked out well, not everyone's does. Now I make it a point to tell everyone that high cholesterol usually does not have any symptoms so it's super important to have blood work done on a regular basis.
We can't control all the ups and downs on our health roller coasters, but cholesterol is one area where we really can have a big effect.
If you've ever rushed to rinse your mouth out because it suddenly tastes like pennies, you're not alone. People experience a metallic taste for a variety of reasons, from sinus infections to chemotherapy.
It's estimated that 15 percent of U.S. adults experience some type of disordered taste or smell, according to the National Institutes of Health (NIH).
Because taste and smell are so intertwined—your preference for a certain food is usually based on both aroma and flavor—it can be difficult to determine whether a mouth that tastes like metal can be blamed on your taste buds or nose.
To help you root out the reason for the metallic taste—and figure out how to get rid of it—we have rounded up the latest research on the causes and treatments of a mouth that tastes like metal.
Most cases of a lingering metallic taste stem from injuries or infections, according to the National Institute of Dental and Craniofacial Research. However, it's also possible to have a lifelong taste disorder.
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"A metallic taste can be caused by a variety of reasons, including medications or supplements, sinus infections, oral hygiene, or even pregnancy," says Natasha Bhuyan, MD, an evidence-based provider at One Medical and clinical assistant professor at the University of Arizona College of Medicine in Phoenix, Arizona.
These are many possible causes of metallic taste, which we unpack in detail below.
Poor oral hygiene
Sinus infections and respiratory infections, including Covid-19
Poor oral hygiene could be one simple reason there is a metallic taste in your mouth, according to Isabel Garcia, DDS, a faculty member and practice leader at Touro College of Dental Medicine in Hawthorne, New York, where she oversees the clinical training of dental students.
Not taking care of or cleaning your teeth could lead to gingivitis and periodontitis. According to Garcia, these beginning stages of gum disease could cause metal mouth.
Forty-seven percent of U.S. adults older than 30 have some degree of periodontal disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC). A metallic taste might be your first warning sign, though you will probably also have symptoms like bad breath, tender gums, or sensitive teeth.
"Visiting your dentist every six months for a checkup and cleaning keeps you updated on the state of your oral health while also allowing an opportunity for any suggestions on how to create and maintain better health habits that are specific to you," Garcia says.
Registered dietitian nutritionist Vicki Shanta Retelny, host of the "Nourishing Notes" podcast, also recommends cleaning your tongue to get rid of unpleasant tastes.
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You have a sinus infection, allergies, upper respiratory infection, or cold
The congestion and mucus associated with respiratory infections may cause a foul or metallic taste in the mouth.
"In this situation, mucus from the nose and throat will be tasted on the tongue," says Lisa Lewis, MD, a pediatrician in Fort Worth, Texas.
These sinus problems could include anything from the common cold and sinus infections to nasal polyps.
People with chronic sinusitis often experience unpleasant or metallic tastes. A study of 68 such patients in the International Forum of Allergy & Rhinology found that a metallic taste was particularly common among men, seniors, and frequent smokers.
So, why does mucus in your nose trigger a metallic taste in your mouth? It's because up to 90 percent of flavor actually comes from your sense of smell, according to research published in the medical journal Flavour.
A stuffy nose can change your perception of flavor, making it seem like your mouth has a sour or metallic taste.
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You have or had Covid-19, or are reacting to the vaccine
Covid-19 causes upper respiratory tract symptoms, and it may also cause a loss of taste and smell.
Even after the infection resolves, food may not taste quite right.
"Peppermint essential oil smells like acetone; my little puppy smells like chalk; citrus fruit tastes like gasoline or kerosene; animal protein tastes like metal; red wine tastes like disinfectant; red bell pepper tastes like liquid smoke," Amy Wright told The Healthy in a previous interview. After being admitted to the hospital in March of 2020 for Covid-19, Wright had lingering long-Covid symptoms.
She's not the only one to experience a metallic taste in the mouth after Covid-19.
A 2020 case study in BMJ Case Reports found that one person with Covid-19 in China initially had a loss of taste and smell before developing other flu-like symptoms such as coughing. And they too described food as tasting bland and metallic.
Even if you haven't had Covid-19, there's another way you might experience a metallic taste in the mouth related to this disease—the Covid-19 vaccine.
NBC News reported that some people are experiencing an immediate metallic taste in their mouth right after getting the Covid-19 vaccine. Experts say it's rare and typically goes away the same day, according to the NBC report
However, if you continue to feel a metallic taste in your mouth or other taste changes, pay attention to any other possible cold-like symptoms. This might be a sign of Covid-19 infection and not a reaction to the vaccine.
The most common cause of a metallic taste in the mouth is medications. Antibiotics, antihistamines, over-the-counter supplements, and blood pressure medications are all known for causing this taste side effect.
Why? Dr. Lewis explains that the substances are released and excreted in the saliva when the body ingests and absorbs medication. The end result is often a metallic taste in the mouth.
"Commonly, vitamin supplements that contain iron, chromium, calcium, and zinc cause a metallic taste in the mouth," she says. "This side effect may also be with antibiotics and neurologic and cardiac medications."
"Lithium is a classic," says Dr. Bhuyan. "Other antidepressants, antibiotics, and even medicine for gout can be culprits."
Dr. Lewis adds that a common medication side effect is dry mouth, which could also cause a foul or metallic taste.
Just as medications, supplements, and multivitamins can make your mouth taste like pennies. This is particularly true of supplements with actual metals like iron or zinc.
"Cold lozenges made with zinc can cause a temporary metallic taste, but it goes away after the lozenge dissolves," Shanta Retelny explains. The same is true of iron supplements, which have a distinct iron taste.
Dysgeusia, which is an abnormal or impaired sense of taste, could be caused by an excess or lack of zinc, says Kristin Koskinen, a dietitian nutritionist in Richland, Washington.
Malnutrition, which might include a zinc deficiency, may slow cell renewal, resulting in taste changes, according to Koskinen. On the other hand, people who take too much zinc through supplements could experience nausea, abdominal distress, or dysgeusia—in the form of that pesky metallic taste, Koskinen says.
Changes in your sense of taste are common during pregnancy.
Nesochi Okeke-Igbokwe, MD, a physician and health and wellness expert in New York, says that these changes to your taste buds may be due to some of the hormonal changes that occur during pregnancy. This usually happens during the first trimester and typically subsides in the second.
Shanta Retelny adds that both prenatal vitamins and early pregnancy can make your mouth taste like metal. The good news? "It goes away quickly," she says.
In addition to nausea, a common complaint of cancer patients undergoing chemotherapy is a metallic taste in the mouth.
Many cancer survivors can commiserate about the ubiquitous "metal mouth" triggered by chemotherapy and other cancer treatments. In fact, between 10 and 78 percent of cancer patients experience this phenomenon, a study published in Cancer Treatment Review.
Here's why: Some bitter medicines injected into your bloodstream can make their way into your saliva, too, causing metal mouth. The resulting metallic taste could be just one of the reasons you're losing your appetite.
Have you ever eaten something that leaves your mouth with a bitter aftertaste for hours? What about weeks? A 2013 report in the medical journal Food Chemical Toxicology outlined 501 complaints of a long-lasting metallic aftertaste from pine nuts.
Interestingly enough, researchers did not find that the metallic taste was related to a pine nut allergy. Rather, the common thread was the consumption of a specific type of pine nut: Pinus armandii. So if you love eating pine nuts but hate their aftertaste, try a different variety.
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You have mercury poisoning
One side effect of mercury poisoning is a metallic taste in your mouth, according to Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe.
That said, more severe symptoms, such as neurological issues, are more concerning. Exposure to mercury could stem from working in an industrial job or from eating methylmercury-contaminated fish, she adds.
"The bottom line is that there are various modes in which one may become exposed to mercury, and this exposure may have some deleterious effects on the body," Dr. Okeke-Igbokwe says.
"It's definitely important to recognize some of the symptoms of mercury toxicity so that you know when it is necessary to seek out medical help."
Although rare, liver or kidney disease could cause a metallic taste in your mouth, too. According to Dr. Lewis, that's because these conditions create a buildup of chemicals in the body.
"These chemicals are released into the saliva, causing a metallic taste," she says. "For example, patients with severe kidney disease will have excess production of ammonia in the saliva, causing a metallic taste in the mouth."
This can cause a variety of oral symptoms, according to a review in the Saudi Dental Journal. Unfortunately, one of those symptoms is a mouth that tastes like metal, according to a report in the European Archives of Oto-Rhino-Laryngology.
Other symptoms of kidney disease include:
unexplained weight loss
If the metallic taste in your mouth can be traced to chronic kidney disease, treatment might include medical interventions such as dialysis.
Neurological disorders affect your nervous system, which helps relay sights, smells, tastes, and sounds to your brain. These diseases can disrupt your sense of flavor, making your mouth seem metallic "due to changes in taste," according to Shanta Retelny.
Research also supports this.
In a case study of a man with a rare disease called facial onset sensory and motor neuronopathy (FOSMN), a change in taste was one of the patient's first symptoms, according to a report in the journal BMC Neurology.
If you experienced premature hearing loss, your doctor might have suggested surgery to fix the issue.
Unfortunately, nerve damage sometimes occurs during these procedures. Taste dysfunction—including a metallic taste in the mouth—is one well-documented side effect of nerve damage during ear surgery.
Fortunately, there might be medications to treat this issue. In one case study published in the American Journal of Otolaryngology and Head and Neck Surgery, a patient found relief after taking an antidepressant called amitriptyline.
If you think you're experiencing a metallic taste due to nerve damage, talk to your doctor about possible treatments that might work for you.
A metallic taste in your mouth can be a side effect of breathing in metal fumes, according to the National Organization for Rare Disorders.
This can occur in welding centers or metal manufacturing facilities with poor ventilation. Fortunately, symptoms like chills, fever, and a metallic taste often dissipate within hours of escaping to a well-ventilated area.
If you believe you've been exposed to heavy metal or any metal fumes for a prolonged period of time, seek medical attention to determine any long-term impact on health.
If the metallic taste in your mouth doesn't go away after a day or two, it's time to call your doctor.
Rather than using a quick fix like mouthwash or mints, a medical professional will discuss your medical history, current medications, and supplements, and possibly examine your body for obvious signs of a relevant health condition.
Your treatment will depend on the underlying cause of the metallic taste.
"Since there are so many different causes of tasting metal, it's important to see a primary care provider so they can determine the next best steps to get your tastebuds feeling metal-free," Dr. Bhuyan says.
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Treatments for a mouth that tastes like metal
The best way to get rid of a metallic taste in your mouth is to determine what's causing it in the first place.
If the cause is related to something you consume
If the taste is due to a medicine, multivitamin, or pine nuts, the flavor will dissipate if you stop consuming the culprit.
However, you should never stop taking prescription medication or deviate from the prescribed amount without talking to your doctor.
If the cause is related to your environment
If your mouth tastes like metal because of heavy metal poisoning or breathing in metal fumes, your first step should be to step into a well-ventilated area.
The next course of action is contacting your doctor to determine your level of toxic exposure and a possible treatment plan.
If the cause is medical
Does your mouth taste like metal because you have a disease or dental issue? Then the solution begins with treatment for the underlying cause.
If your mouth tastes like pennies because you're pregnant, take heart—this unsettling side effect should subside by the second trimester.
While you wait for a diagnosis and treatment plan from a medical professional, these home remedies and might help:
Brush your teeth twice a day, as recommended by the American Dental Association.
Try chewing sugar-free gum or mints between meals.
Drink water regularly throughout the day.
"Staying hydrated can help decrease any foul tastes in the mouth," Shanta Retelny says.