High cholesterol levels do not always cause symptoms. However, high blood cholesterol increases the risk of conditions such as coronary artery disease (CAD) and stroke, which may cause dizziness.

Cholesterol is a fat-like substance that the body requires in certain amounts for the healthy functioning of cells and bodily processes.

Molecules called lipoproteins carry cholesterol through the blood. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL) is sometimes known as “bad cholesterol,” while high-density lipoprotein (HDL) is known as “good” cholesterol.

This article explores whether high cholesterol causes dizziness. It also discusses how high cholesterol can cause symptoms of other diseases.

It will also explore how a doctor diagnoses high cholesterol, the warning signs of high cholesterol, and how a person can monitor their cholesterol levels.

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High cholesterol occurs when there are excess levels of cholesterol in the blood. This may include a high level of LDLs known as hypercholesterolemia.

Risk factors for high cholesterol include:

  • stress
  • a diet high in saturated fats and trans fats
  • smoking
  • lack of physical activity
  • drinking excessive alcohol
  • older age

Additionally, a family history of high cholesterol increases a person’s risk for high cholesterol.

Learn more about what causes high cholesterol.

According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC), the following cholesterol levels are desirable:

  • an LDL cholesterol level of less than 100 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter)
  • a triglyceride level of less than 150 mg/dl
  • an HDL cholesterol level greater than or equal to 40 mg/dL in males and 50 mg/dL in females
  • a total cholesterol level of less than 200 mg/dl

High cholesterol itself does not cause dizziness. It often does not present noticeable symptoms, but it can result in conditions and diseases that may cause dizziness.

An increase in cholesterol levels and the level of LDL cholesterol in the body may cause the buildup of fatty deposits known as plaques. These plaques form in the blood vessels, causing them to become narrower. This is known as atherosclerosis.

The narrowing of blood vessels decreases blood flow, including the passage of oxygen and other nutrients. These plaques may also develop further and completely block the vessels.

Learn more about atherosclerosis.

The formation of atherosclerotic plaques increases a person’s risk of developing other diseases. These include:

Some of these conditions, such as CAD, heart attack and stroke, may cause dizziness as a symptom.

A person with high levels of LDLs does not usually have noticeable symptoms. However, someone with very high levels may have them. These symptoms include xanthomas, which are fatty bumps on the skin that may appear on the elbows, joints, knees, hands, feet, or buttocks. People may also experience grayish-white rings that appear around the corneas of the eyes.

High cholesterol may also put a person at risk of developing conditions that cause dizziness. Read on to find out more about these conditions and their symptoms.

Learn more about high cholesterol symptoms.

Stroke symptoms

A stroke occurs when there is a blockage or rupture of the blood vessels that carry oxygen and nutrients to the brain. This causes a lack of oxygen to certain parts of the brain and can lead to brain cell death.

Symptoms of a stroke include:

CAD symptoms

CAD occurs when there is a lack of blood flow and oxygen to the myocardium, which is the muscle of the heart. This typically occurs due to atherosclerotic plaques blocking the coronary arteries. These are the blood vessels that supply the heart.

Symptoms of CAD include:

Heart attack symptoms

A myocardial infarction, or a heart attack, occurs when there is either a severe reduction or complete stop of blood flow to the myocardium of the heart. Most heart attacks occur due to underlying CAD.

A person experiencing a heart attack may present with:

  • chest pain in the center or left side of the chest
  • pain in the upper body such as one or both arms, the back, neck, jaw, or stomach
  • shortness of breath
  • cold sweat
  • nausea
  • lightheadedness or dizziness

In comparison with males, females are more likely to experience certain symptoms such as shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, and back and jaw pain.

Peripheral arterial disease (PAD) symptoms

PAD occurs when the vessels that transport blood from the heart to the legs narrow or obstruct. The buildup of atherosclerotic plaque in the arteries is the primary cause of this condition.

Symptoms of PAD include:

PAD increases a person’s risk of developing CAD, heart attack, or stroke.

A person will need to speak with a healthcare professional for a diagnosis of high cholesterol. A doctor will typically begin by taking a medical history and asking questions regarding a person’s diet, family history, and any symptoms they are experiencing.

The doctor may also perform a physical exam to look for signs of atypically high blood cholesterol, including fatty bumps on the skin or grayish-white rings around the cornea.

A healthcare professional is likely to also order blood tests to determine the level of cholesterol. This test is known as a lipid panel.

A lipid panel will measure the level of lipids in the blood, including:

  • total cholesterol
  • LDL cholesterol
  • HDL cholesterol
  • triglycerides

Learn more about cholesterol blood tests.

A doctor will use this panel to check for high cholesterol, triglycerides, and LDL cholesterol levels.

They may order an additional lipoprotein(a) test if a person has a family history of heart disease. This test measures the level of lipoprotein(a) in the blood. High lipoprotein(a) levels increase the risk of heart and blood vessel diseases.

Learn more about lipoprotein(a) and what test results mean.

High cholesterol itself does not usually produce symptoms or warning signs.

However, a person with very high cholesterol may present with fatty bumps on their skin and grayish-white rings around the corneas of their eyes.

A person can monitor their cholesterol levels by asking their doctor to carry out a lipid panel.

According to the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, cholesterol screening via a lipid panel should occur:

  • every 5 years for people aged 19 or younger and beginning at ages 9 to 11
  • every 5 years for young adults
  • every 1–2 years for males aged 45–65 and females aged 55–65
  • every year for people over the age of 65

Other organizations may have different recommendations. For example, the CDC recommends getting checked every 5 years for those aged 20 or older who are at low risk for cardiovascular disease. The agency also recommends people undergo screening every 5 years for those with risk factors for cardiovascular disease.

Learn more about healthy cholesterol levels by age.

A person should consult a doctor if they experience the above symptoms, including those for other conditions that may cause dizziness or occur due to high cholesterol.

A person should also speak with their doctor if they have a family history of high cholesterol or heart disease and wish to screen for their cholesterol level.

A person can prevent atypical blood cholesterol levels by making lifestyle changes.

For example, they can reduce the level of LDL cholesterol in the blood by following a heart-healthy diet that includes foods such as:

  • leafy green vegetables, broccoli, and carrots
  • fruits
  • whole grains such as brown rice and plain oatmeal
  • fat-free or low fat dairy foods such as milk and cheese
  • protein-rich foods such as fish, lean meats, eggs, nuts, and seeds

Learn more about foods that lower cholesterol.

A person can also reduce the level of LDL cholesterol in their body by making other changes, including:

  • exercising regularly
  • maintaining a moderate weight
  • quitting smoking, if applicable
  • limiting alcohol consumption

A person may also receive prescription medication, such as statins, from their doctor to help lower their high blood cholesterol.

High cholesterol occurs due to excess levels of cholesterol in the blood. While a person with high cholesterol may not experience symptoms, high cholesterol may lead to other conditions that can cause symptoms, such as dizziness. These conditions include CAD, stroke and heart attack.

The overall outlook for a person with high cholesterol will depend on several factors, including:

  • age
  • the presence of other associated diseases such as hypertension, diabetes and obesity
  • the level of cholesterol present at diagnosis

Making lifestyle changes, such as following a nutritious diet, exercising regularly, and limiting alcohol consumption, can all help lower LDL cholesterol levels.

A person should speak with a healthcare professional if they experience any symptoms of high cholesterol or conditions relating to excess cholesterol levels.