Does High Cholesterol Cause Headaches and Dizziness?
Medically Reviewed by Vincenta Faulkner, RD, CNSC, CCTD
Often, high cholesterol sneaks past us until it results in serious health events, like a heart attack or stroke.
You’d think that our bodies would have unmistakable bells and whistles to alert us when our cholesterol is dangerously high. Our cholesterol level is such an essential part of our health and yet it all too often can slip us by if we aren’t paying close attention.
Nevertheless, with all the conditions that hypercholesterolemia — aka high cholesterol — can lead to, there may be a few indications that our levels are high. In extreme cases, some people have associated an increased frequency of headaches or spells of dizziness with high cholesterol levels.
But does high cholesterol really cause these symptoms? Let’s look into the truth behind this and see how high cholesterol may reveal itself in our everyday lives.
What Is Cholesterol?
To begin with, an understanding of what cholesterol is can help explain why symptoms like headaches or dizziness might emerge.
How is it that our cholesterol levels could affect us in this way?
Cholesterol is a waxy substance similar to fat. It is produced in the liver and then carried throughout our circulatory system in our blood. Cholesterol is a lipoprotein, a dense package that carries fat-like materials used to do everything from building cells to creating vitamins and hormones.
Given this central purpose, cholesterol is a very important part of how our body functions. However, while it serves many good purposes, issues arise when we have too much cholesterol.
What Happens If We Have High Cholesterol?
When there’s too much cholesterol in the bloodstream, it can block our blood vessels and arteries. Cholesterol is a dense substance that carries key building materials for the body. When we have too much of it in our blood, this surplus can build up on our arterial walls.
Atherosclerosis is a health condition closely associated with high cholesterol. It describes the narrowing and hardening of our arteries and often occurs alongside high cholesterol levels. As our blood vessels become constricted due to this plaque build-up, we can experience an even further range of health risks.
After all, our heart is pumping blood through our body 24/7 to keep us alive. Naturally, hindrances to that critical process, like high cholesterol and atherosclerosis, can make for a dangerous situation.
What Health Risks Are Associated With High Cholesterol?
The importance of our circulatory system and its many blood vessels and arteries cannot be understated. Given the significant roles our heart and circulatory system play in our lives, the plaque build-up and other hindrances that can accompany high cholesterol result in serious health risks.
Among them are increased risk of coronary heart disease, peripheral artery disease, stroke, type 2 diabetes, and hypertension.
When it comes to headaches and dizziness, hypertension — or high blood pressure — warrants further examination as a potential cause for these symptoms.
Does High Cholesterol Cause Dizziness and Headaches?
Can high cholesterol levels lead to dizziness and headaches? The short answer is no, in all likelihood, for everyday intents and purposes.
High cholesterol can be a predictor of hypertension. And when our blood pressure is raised to such an extreme level, certain symptoms may emerge, which is why you may be concerned that dizzy spells or headaches could be a sign of high cholesterol.
Hypercholesterolemia often leads to hypertension which, in extreme cases, may reach a point where we may feel symptoms similar to dizzy spells and headaches.
While it may be reasonable to connect these symptoms, it is not necessarily the case that high cholesterol is related to dizziness and headaches. In fact, our body is often able to endure high cholesterol and high blood pressure to the extent that we do not notice any symptoms at all.
Symptoms similar to dizziness and headaches could be caused by high cholesterol in specific scenarios, but these two symptoms are so general that they aren’t an effective way of determining high cholesterol.
That said, a growing body of research has established a connection between severe migraine headaches and high cholesterol levels. People with frequent migraines also tend to have higher levels of LDL cholesterol in their bloodstream.
However, the research on this specific connection is still just beginning, and clear cause and effect have yet to be established.
Regarding feelings of dizziness, there could be a connection between lightheadedness — which often feels like dizziness — and high cholesterol. A constricted blood flow has been shown to increase feelings of lightheadedness due to increased difficulty of blood getting to the brain.
But dizziness is a largedly undefined term, and using it to assess our cholesterol levels isn’t advisable.
You may experience dizziness and headaches for a large number of reasons. They aren’t clear instances of causation when it comes to cholesterol. So if you’re concerned that experiencing these symptoms may be a sign of high cholesterol, it may not be the whole story.
What Is Hypertension?
Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is likely one of the first conditions one may face when their cholesterol levels get too high. The constriction of blood vessels associated with high cholesterol forces our heart to work harder in order to pump blood through our narrower arteries.
These narrowed blood vessels raise our blood pressure, which can overexert and weaken our hearts. Furthermore, the key functions of our circulatory system, such as transporting oxygen, fluids, and so much else, become affected. As our blood vessels tighten up, we may be straining this critical function of our body.
High blood pressure then could explain why we might experience headaches or dizziness as symptoms.
What Are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure?
Like high cholesterol, high blood pressure doesn’t necessarily cause flagrant symptoms that alarm us that our health is in peril. Blood pressure tests are an important part of assessing your health for this very reason, as they will confirm decisively how healthy your blood pressure levels are.
That said, in extreme circumstances, people may experience symptoms due to severely high blood pressure that might alert them to the unhealthy state of their circulatory system.
People have reported headaches when they have extremely high blood pressure. Shortness of breath, nosebleeds, and lightheartedness have also been reported in people that have dangerously high blood pressure levels.
But these symptoms usually emerge when blood pressure levels reach extremely severe levels, making them ineffective bellwethers to determine our blood pressure, and by extension of that, our cholesterol levels in an everyday context.
Why Are Blood Lipid Tests Important?
Hinging your assessment of your cholesterol levels on symptoms like dizziness and headaches isn’t an effective way to gauge your blood lipid health.
While a unique onset of these symptoms may be alarming and lead us to think our cholesterol may be higher because of it, this is only an assumption.
Instead, the most effective way to get a grasp on your cholesterol levels is to take a blood lipid test. If you’re concerned about your cholesterol levels, blood lipid tests are the single most important means of monitoring them.
You may have had a blood lipid test a couple of times over the course of your life. The American Heart Association recommends that adults as young as 20 years old get a blood lipid test every 4 to 6 years. As we get older, or if we have an increased risk of developing high cholesterol, our healthcare provider may recommend them more often.
The measurements on a blood lipid test can give a more precise idea of where you’re at and where you need to be regarding your cholesterol. They give you four measurements: your LDL cholesterol levels, your HDL cholesterol levels, your triglyceride levels, and your total triglyceride levels.
Your healthcare professional or physician can help you determine how healthy these levels are so you can plan accordingly based on your health needs.
Zizi Makes Heart Health Easy
Feelings of dizziness and headaches may be indicators of poor health. But more than likely they are not.
For those of us looking for certainties in regard to our good health, taking aim at our cholesterol levels provides us a clear target to fight.
At Zizi, we know the health risks associated with high cholesterol and have dedicated ourselves to providing your clear, direct path forward to lowering your cholesterol levels. We provide you with proven cholesterol-lowering supplements in addition to a plant-first diet that promotes improved cholesterol health.
Finally, we provide your monthly at-home blood lipid test kits so you can leave no doubt in your mind about your cholesterol health.
Learn more about lowering your cholesterol in 30 days with Zizi’s Heart Health Reset program here, or your money back.
What is Cholesterol? | American Heart Association
Arteriosclerosis / Atherosclerosis | Mayo Clinic
Cholesterol: High Cholesterol Diseases | Cleveland Clinic
High blood pressure (hypertension) | Mayo Clinic
Can high cholesterol cause headaches? | Cleveland Clinic
Correlation between Migraine Severity and Cholesterol Levels | National Library of Medicine
How to get your cholesterol tested | The American Heart Association