Can high cholesterol cause headaches?

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Can high cholesterol cause headaches?
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Overview

The U.S. National Library of Medicine (see Resources) describes a headache as discomfort or pain in the area of the head or neck. Headache types vary between mild, moderate, severe cluster headaches and more debilitating types, such as migraine or tension headaches. The causes of headaches are vast. Minor headaches can result from something as simple as sensitivity to certain foods, but more serious headaches can be attributed to poor health conditions, such as high cholesterol.

What Is High Cholesterol?

Every cell in the human body contains cholesterol. Fatty in nature, cholesterol plays a key role in hormone production, cell production and the construction of membranes. Although our bodies manufacture some of the cholesterol that we need, other sources of cholesterol are derived from the foods we eat. According to the American Heart Association, there are two types of cholesterol: good and bad. High-density lipoprotein (HDL) is the good cholesterol, and low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is the bad. When your LDL is high, plaque can begin to form and clog your arteries. This is known as atherosclerosis.

High Cholesterol and Headaches

Symptoms of a headache can begin in different locations of the head and neck and radiate to other areas. When a headache begins to cause visual disturbances, it is known as a migraine with "aura." MayoClinic.com describes this type of migraine as severe in nature, sometimes accompanied by nausea and vomiting, as well as skin pain and light sensitivity. Research shows that a migraine with aura is directly linked to high cholesterol.

High Cholesterol Complications

Oftentimes, there are no symptoms that accompany high cholesterol. It is usually not until a blood test is performed that high cholesterol is identified. But in cases of high cholesterol that goes untreated, in which the LDL continues to rise, patients can begin to become symptomatic. A study by the National Institute of Aging showed that 43 per cent of migraine with aura sufferers also had blood tests that revealed an LDL of 240 (high) or higher. An LDL level of 200 or less is considered ideal. High cholesterol often runs hand in hand with high blood pressure, which adds further health complications. As blood pressure rises, headaches and migraines can become more severe. Under these conditions, it's wise to follow a physician's course of action, which is usually a fat-free/cholesterol-free diet along with a cholesterol-lowering prescription.

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