Many people with high cholesterol suffer from headaches, but is there a true connection between the two? Can high cholesterol cause headaches? The short answer – maybe. However, both the causes of headaches and the effects of high cholesterol are a little more complex than x+y=z.
Your body is chock-full of interconnected systems, and when something goes wrong it can cause a domino effect that is difficult to track. When we understand the full context of both conditions, we can get a clearer picture of whether high cholesterol causes headaches.
The Correlation Between Cholesterol and Headaches
It’s quite common for people to associate high cholesterol levels and headaches, but there hasn’t been extensive research done on the correlation. There is some weight, however, to the connection.
High cholesterol levels can cause plaque to build up in arteries, making them narrow and hard. This can lead to reduced blood flow to the brain, and ultimately, headaches.
Additionally, some studies have suggested that high cholesterol levels may play a role in migraine headaches, especially as we start to age. It is believed that changes in the blood vessels and inflammation in the brain may lead to these intense, multi-symptomatic headaches. High cholesterol levels have been associated with increased inflammation and endothelial dysfunction, which could contribute to these risk factors.
However, it is important to note that headaches can have various triggers and contributors, and high cholesterol is just one potential culprit. We also see headaches pop up from stress, hormonal changes, certain foods, environmental factors, and genetics.
Top 3 Things to Help Relieve Headache Pain
While the word cholesterol may trigger fear and trepidation, it’s actually vital for healthy cells. Like many parts of a healthy lifestyle, however, too much of a good thing turns bad quickly.
There are two types of cholesterol that can be found in our food: low-density and high-density lipoproteins. These proteins carry cholesterol toward the liver to be broken down and used, but low-density ones break down too soon and deposit it in the arteries.
This can quickly lead to other serious health complications like atherosclerosis heart disease.
The Ins and Outs of Headaches
Headaches can range in severity from mildly annoying to debilitating. They are triggered by a myriad of stimuli, and everyone experiences them differently.
Some headaches are simply due to external forces like loud noises, bright lights, weather changes (barometric pressure drops), or exhaust fumes. Others are indicators of serious internal health conditions.
Different Types of Headaches
As anyone who suffers from them will tell you, not all headaches are equal. There are several different causes, and each will lead to a different kind of pain and set of symptoms.
Some of the most common types of headaches include:
- Tension – The most common type of headache. Caused by muscle tension or stress. They typically cause a dull, aching pain on both sides of the head
- Migraine – A neurological disorder characterized by recurrent, severe headaches. Characterized by throbbing or pulsating pain on one side of the head, along with nausea or sensitivity to light or sound.
- Cluster – Extremely painful headaches that come in clusters or patterns. Severe, piercing pain on one side of the head, often around the eye or temple, coming regularly over several weeks or months
- Sinus – Caused by inflammation or infection of the sinuses. The pain is usually felt around the forehead, cheeks, or nose, accompanied by facial pressure or congestion.
- Hormonal – Linked to hormonal fluctuations, such as those experienced during menstruation, pregnancy, or menopause. They often cause a throbbing pain on one side of the head.
With both tension headaches and migraines being linked to inflammation and plaque in the blood vessels, it is possible for high cholesterol to cause headaches, or at least contribute to some of them.
How to Prevent Headaches
Since the cause of headaches can vary so much, it’s impossible to eliminate the chances of getting one. However, you can restrict the external forces that contribute to certain types.
Excessive stress can be a trigger for headaches, especially if you are at risk from other factors. Practice stress management techniques such as deep breathing exercises, meditation, or yoga.
Engaging in regular physical activity can also help reduce stress levels and contribute to your overall health.
Skipping meals leads to dips in blood sugar levels, bringing on headaches. You can keep your brain fueled and happy by opting for a diet rich in fruits, vegetables, whole grains, lean proteins, and healthy fats.
Maintain Good Posture
Poor posture can lead to pain throughout your body, including headaches. The strain on your neck and shoulders causes a build-up of tension. Be conscious of your posture while sitting and standing, and take regular breaks to stretch if you work at a desk or computer.
Different Ways to Mitigate Headache Pain
If you’re dealing with the pain of a headache, it can get overwhelming quickly. There are several ways to soothe the pain and get you back to your regular self.
Nonprescription pain relievers such as acetaminophen, ibuprofen, or aspirin can help reduce headache pain. They are especially useful if you only get headaches every once in a while.
Take these pills as directed but be cautious not to overuse them, as it can lead to medication overuse headaches and further complications.
Get Good Sleep
Lack of sleep or irregular sleep patterns can trigger headaches, which in turn make it even more difficult to get to sleep. Try to keep a consistent schedule, and try out different sleep hacks if you’re constantly dealing with late-night pain.
Dehydration can be a common cause of headaches, as well as many other health issues. Make sure you drink enough water throughout the day to stay hydrated, especially if you live in a hot climate or engage in physical activity.
The right amount of water is going to be different for everyone, but typically 8-10 glasses per day is recommended. You can also monitor the color of your urine – it should be a light yellow or clear color, which indicates good hydration.
How to Lower Your Cholesterol
Bringing down your cholesterol levels helps with blood flow and can decrease your chances of getting headaches and migraines. You can do this by integrating the following things into your lifestyle.
- Healthy Diet – Limit foods high in saturated fats and cholesterol, such as red meat, processed foods, fried foods, and dairy.
- Soluble Fiber – To bring down your cholesterol absorption, eat more oats, lentils, beans, fruits, and veggies.
- Avoid Smoking – Any form of smoking can damage blood vessels and lower your HDL cholesterol.
- Exercise – Aerobic exercise helps to boost good cholesterol levels and aids in weight loss.
If these lifestyle changes aren’t enough to bring down your cholesterol levels, your doctor may also recommend medication to help.
Final Thoughts – Can High Cholesterol Cause Headaches?
While the correlation between cholesterol and headaches may not be completely understood, it’s important to take care of your overall health and manage both conditions.
Eating a healthy diet, staying active, and working with your doctor to manage your cholesterol levels can not only reduce your risk of headaches but also improve your overall health and well-being.
Zoppler is reader supported and may earn affiliate commissions from links on this page. We support and believe in all the products and services we promote and are affiliated with.