Colesterol alto

¿El colesterol alto puede provocar dolores de cabeza?

¿Se pregunta si el colesterol alto está causando dolores de cabeza actuales o crónicos? Aquí encontrarás todo lo que necesitas saber sobre la conexión.
A un lado de la fotografía se muestran la cabeza y el brazo de una mujer blanca acostada sobre una colcha colorida. Está acostada boca abajo y parece que le duele.

Key Points

  • High cholesterol usually doesn’t cause headaches. In fact, this condition rarely causes symptoms.
  • If you have frequent headaches, they could be a sign of another serious condition. So see a medical provider to find out what’s happening.
  • High cholesterol increases the risk of serious health complications like heart disease, stroke and heart attack. That’s why it’s essential to treat it, even if you don’t have symptoms. Lifestyle changes and cholesterol-lowering medications can help keep your cholesterol levels under control.

High cholesterol is known as a “silent killer” because it rarely causes symptoms—including headaches. But it often links to other health problems which could cause headaches. So the presence of one may suggest the presence of another.

Confused? Don’t worry—we’ll break it down for you.

And if you already take cholesterol-lowering medication and need a refill, Dr. B has you covered. Learn more about how it works. Or start a $15 online consultation to get started.

What does it mean to have high cholesterol?

Cholesterol is a waxy substance that our bodies produce to help make cell membranes, different hormones and Vitamin D.

Our bodies need cholesterol. And while we can get cholesterol from food, our livers produce all we need. That means any cholesterol we get from food is extra and unnecessary. Sometimes, we can eat little enough that the extra doesn’t affect our health. But when we overeat, that extra cholesterol builds up in our blood.

High cholesterol levels in our blood vessels can build up and lead to blockages. (Picture it like gunk clogging a pipe.) With time, blocked blood vessels near the heart or brain can lead to bigger issues, like heart attack or stroke.

Symptoms of high cholesterol

High cholesterol is linked to a higher risk of serious health problems like heart attack, stroke, heart disease and more. That means it can be a dangerous condition if left unchecked.

But the tricky thing about finding out whether or not you have this condition is It rarely causes symptoms!

People with very high cholesterol might also have yellow bumps or nodules in their eyes, elbows or around their Achilles tendons. (These deposits of the waxy substance are called xanthomas.) But otherwise, most people don’t even know they have high cholesterol until they get their blood checked at a routine screening.

That’s because as long as some blood flows through the blood vessel, they might feel okay. But behind the scenes, their heart is working harder and harder to pump blood past the blockage. Once the blockage covers 70-80% of a blood vessel, some people may experience emergencies like a heart attack or stroke.

Does high cholesterol cause headaches?

Some studies show that people with high cholesterol are more likely to have headaches.

But does this mean that higher cholesterol levels cause headaches?

Some medicines that treat high cholesterol can cause headaches. These include common cholesterol medicines like Simvastatin and Rosuvastatin. If you have headaches while using these medicines, talk to your doctor about ways to manage your symptoms.

Other people struggle to manage their cholesterol levels because of lifestyle factors. Stress, alcohol use, poor diet and lack of sleep can all cause headaches—and make high cholesterol worse. So lifestyle changes can improve cholesterol levels and headaches—a win-win!

Migraines and cholesterol

Some research shows there might be a link between migraines and high cholesterol. One study found that older people who had migraines with aura also had higher cholesterol levels. But this doesn’t mean that high cholesterol caused their migraines.

Another study found that people with intense migraines also had higher cholesterol levels. When their migraines were treated, their cholesterol levels went down. But the study was small—only 52 participants—and there was no way to know what caused the headaches.

These studies suggest a connection between migraines and cholesterol levels. But correlation doesn’t mean causation—just because the two things happen together doesn’t mean one causes the other. But just in case, people who get migraines should probably have a provider check their lipid levels. They could also try a low-fat diet to see if that helps relieve headache symptoms and cholesterol levels.

Other causes of headaches

Almost everyone gets the occasional headache. And it can be hard to know if a headache is a sign of a bigger problem.

That’s especially true given the many types of headaches that exist:

  • Tension headaches: The most common type of headache, they’re usually triggered by stress or poor sleep. They get better on their own, rest or over-the-counter medicines.
  • Migraines: These usually target one specific part of the head. Migraines can also include nausea, light sensitivity or sensory changes (aura). Dehydration, lack of sleep, weather changes and many other things can trigger them.
  • Ice pick headaches: People with these short headaches often describe the feeling as if someone is stabbing their brain with an ice pick.
  • Cluster headaches: These intense headaches occur in groups or clusters of time and can last a few hours, stabbing or boring into several parts of the head.
  • Sinus headaches: These pressure headaches press against the sinuses. They can also cause a stuffy nose or fatigue.

If you have a new or sudden headache that causes intense pain, get checked out immediately. The headache could signal a medical emergency. Also, see your provider if you have frequent headaches or if your headaches come with other symptoms, like nausea or light sensitivity.

How to manage high cholesterol

It’s important to check your cholesterol levels regularly. Your provider can do a simple blood test to see if your cholesterol is in the healthy range. For many people, lifestyle changes can help keep cholesterol levels under control.

To lower your cholesterol, try:

  • Eating a diet low in saturated fats
  • Exercising regularly
  • Managing other health conditions, like diabetes or high blood pressure
  • Maintaining a healthy weight
  • Quitting smoking

Some people need medication to help keep high levels of cholesterol under control. This is especially true for people with a family history of high cholesterol (familial hypercholesterolemia).

Statins are an effective medication for lowering LDL cholesterol levels—the “bad” type of cholesterol that leads to blockages.

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​​Bic, Z., et al. (1999). The influence of a low-fat diet on incidence and severity of migraine headaches. Journal Of Women's Health & Gender-Based Medicine.

Ford, B., et al. (2021). Outpatient primary care management of headaches: Guidelines from the VA/DoD. American Family Physician.

Hill, M.F., et al. (2023). Hyperlipidemia. StatPearls Publishing.

Hoover, L.E. (2019). Cholesterol management: ACC/AHA updates guideline. American Family Physician.

Martin, S.S. Cholesterol in the blood. Johns Hopkins University.

Rist, P. M., et al. (2011). Associations between lipid levels and migraine: cross-sectional analysis in the epidemiology of vascular aging study. Cephalalgia: An International Journal Of Headache.

Rosenson, R. (2021). Patient education: High cholesterol and lipids. UpToDate.

Tana, C., et al. (2015). Correlation between migraine severity and cholesterol levels. Pain Practice: The Official Journal Of World Institute Of Pain.

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