It has been proven over time and again that high cholesterol leads to various fatal health issues like coronary artery disease, which, in turn, leads to serious health problems like heart attack, stroke, or other severe heart conditions like atherosclerosis, or hardening of arteries. In addition, cardiologists affirm that it takes years for high cholesterol to build up, and aggressive measures are needed to mitigate its effects.
Before answering the question – can high cholesterol cause headaches and dizziness? – you should first know what high cholesterol actually is. It may be tempting to think high cholesterol, headaches, and dizziness are positively correlated if you suffer from them. But mostly, it wouldn’t be the case.
Meet up with High levels of Cholesterol
Your liver produces cholesterol, a waxy and fatty substance vital for developing Vitamin D, cell membranes, and certain hormones. However, cholesterol is insoluble in water, so cholesterol can’t move through the body.
It is the job of the Lipoproteins to help cholesterol travel through the bloodstream. There are two major types of Lipoproteins: Low-Density Lipoproteins (LDL) and High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL).
Low-Density Lipoproteins, popularly known as ‘bad cholesterol,’ builds up in the arteries, increasing the risk of heart disease and leading to severe health problems like chest pain, heart attack, and stroke. On the other hand, High-Density Lipoproteins (HDL), also known as ‘good cholesterol,’ take back bad cholesterol to the liver to remove it from your body.
Indulging in fatty foods increases the levels of LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream. This condition is called high cholesterol, medically termed hypercholesterolemia or hyperlipidemia.
In case of higher levels of LDL cholesterol or lower HDL cholesterol levels, fat deposits build up in your bloodstream. This fat build-up in your blood vessels makes it difficult for the flow of blood through your arteries. This cause fatal repercussions in your whole body, particularly in your heart and brain.
A blood test named lipid panel is used to quickly diagnose high cholesterol levels. You are instructed by your doctor to not eat or drink anything for at least 12 hours before the test.
A lipid panel measures your total cholesterol, HDL cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, and triglycerides. The desirable levels of cholesterol in the human body are given below.
- LDL cholesterol: 100 mg/decilitre (dL) or lesser
- HDL cholesterol: 60 mg/dL or higher
- Triglycerides: 150 mg/dL or lesser
If your levels of LDL are between 200 and 239 mg/dL, it is considered ‘borderline.’ When it crosses 240 mg/dL, it is regarded as a ‘high’ cholesterol level. Likewise, your LDL cholesterol is ‘borderline’ between 130 and 159 mg/dL. If it crosses 160 mg/dL, it enters the ‘high’ terrain. Finally, note that your HDL cholesterol is considered ‘poor’ if it falls below 40 mg/dL.
Can High Cholesterol Cause Migraines?
Migraine headaches are often considered a vasodilation phenomenon that occurs when your blood vessels expand or dilate. In reality, it is an entirely separate health issue from atherosclerosis.
Several studies have been conducted during the last few years, and some of them found interesting positive correlations between high cholesterol levels and migraine headaches. For example, a study by the National Institutes of Health (NIH) published in 2015 reveals that high cholesterol cause headaches, especially migraine headaches.
But this study was conducted on 52 people, a tiny pool of respondents, to take out relevant findings or derive conclusions. So, the results don’t mean high cholesterol is the culprit behind these migraines.
A study published in 2011 found that people who have migraine with aura, also known as classic migraine, had high cholesterol and triglycerides levels compared to people who didn’t experience frequent headaches. However, the findings of this study are also a case of association. That means it can’t be proved that higher cholesterol levels caused classic migraine in the respondents or patients. Plus, this study was conducted only on elderly people, which is not a piece of scientific evidence to prove the case is the same in people of all age groups.
Even though high blood pressure and high cholesterol pose the risk of atherosclerosis, their contribution to frequent headaches or migraine is a bit doubtful. However, plaque build-up in your arteries develops a blood clot that can block the flow of blood, restricting blood and oxygen to your vital organs, leading to a stroke. All these developments can also lead to high blood pressure.
To cut a long story short, there is no single research that scientifically supports high cholesterol headaches or migraines.
Can High Cholesterol Cause Numbness?
Your legs are far away from your heart, so they risk developing complications from high levels of cholesterol and numbness. There is scientific backing for high cholesterol numbness of your legs or Peripheral Artery Disease (PAD). PAD occurs when your legs’ arteries get narrower due to fat build-up from high cholesterol levels.
In addition, PAD causes numbness and tingling in your legs or feet. Numbness or sensation loss increases your risk of ulcers and other slowly healing wounds. Leg pain that may feel like muscle cramps, especially when you engage in physical activity, is a common symptom of PAD.
Can Cholesterol Cause Dizziness?
When the question is, “is dizziness a symptom of high cholesterol?” we should first define dizziness. Dizziness is a generic term that means different things to different people. For example, some people may experience room spinning while others are prone to vertigo sensations and claims their experiences as dizziness. But it is more appropriately be termed lightheadedness. So, suppose you say that you feel dizzy. In that case, you may be admitting that you are having a physical symptom of a much-complicated health issue that may not be associated with high cholesterol levels.
Although high cholesterol and dizziness or cholesterol dizziness have no scientific evidence, high cholesterol and lightheadedness are positively correlated. If you have plaque build-up or high cholesterol levels with the poor flow of blood in your arteries or narrowing heart valves, or if you suffer from arrhythmias, it can lead to lightheadedness.
Frequent bouts of dizziness are a worrying symptom of a severe underlying health issue. To understand the problem and get appropriate treatment, you should consult a doctor.
So, the short answer to the question – is dizziness a symptom of high cholesterol? – is a big ‘no.’
In conclusion, as high cholesterol levels don’t show symptoms in the early stages, failure to diagnose and get proper treatment will invite serious health problems. If you are a healthy adult above 20 years of age, it is medically recommended that you check your levels of LDL every 4 to 6 years. But if you are prone to a greater risk of high cholesterol, as a genetic history of high levels of LDL, risk of heart disease, and high blood pressure at a young age, you should check your levels of LDL more frequently.
Amid these severe health problems like high cholesterol, headaches, and migraine, there is good news: you can always manage your cholesterol or levels of LDL. Lifestyle changes, including nutrition and regular exercise, lower your cholesterol levels naturally. Medication and treatment for cholesterol is also practical option for many people.