Does High Cholesterol Cause High Blood Pressure?

By Zina Semenovskaya, MD
Medically reviewed checkmarkMedically reviewed
October 18, 2022

Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States. High blood pressure and high blood cholesterol are among the most significant risk factors for developing heart disease. When left untreated, both high cholesterol and high blood pressure can also increase your risk for heart attack and stroke. 

High cholesterol and high blood pressure are related. When a person has high cholesterol, it can be more difficult for their heart to pump blood efficiently through their arteries and veins, which can increase blood pressure. Additional studies conducted in men and women show that having high cholesterol may also increase your risk of developing high blood pressure later on in life. 

In this article, I’ll explain the differences between high cholesterol and hypertension, as well as how the two are related.

Understanding High Cholesterol vs High Blood Pressure

High cholesterol is a condition in which the levels of cholesterol in your blood are higher than normal. Cholesterol is an organic molecule made and stored by the body. Though most of the cholesterol in our blood is made by our body, we also ingest cholesterol from the foods that we eat. Cholesterol is essential for living, but having high cholesterol can increase the risk of several serious medical conditions, including heart disease.

Blood pressure is a measurement of the force exerted on the walls of your arteries and blood vessels as your heart pumps blood. Having high blood pressure, or hypertension, refers to a condition in which your arteries are too narrow or stiff, making it difficult for your heart to pump blood through the body.

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Does High Cholesterol Cause High Blood Pressure?

Research suggests that high cholesterol and high blood pressure are connected. Having high cholesterol increases the risk of having narrowed arteries, which can make it difficult for the heart to pump blood efficiently and lead to high blood pressure.

Studies also show that non-hypertensive individuals with high cholesterol are more likely to develop high blood pressure later in life and that eating a diet high in cholesterol can increase systolic blood pressure. Another study suggests that people with high cholesterol may experience higher blood pressure levels during exercise. 

Other Health Risks

Heart disease (which includes heart attack, heart failure and stroke) is the primary health risk associated with high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Additional risks of uncontrolled high cholesterol include atherosclerosis, a condition in which plaque builds up in the blood vessels in the body.

Additional risks of uncontrolled high blood pressure include:

  • Kidney disease
  • Eye problems
  • Metabolic syndrome
  • Memory problems and dementia

Management

If you’re diagnosed with high blood pressure and/or cholesterol, your provider may recommend lifestyle changes and medication. They may also recommend some of these strategies if you’re at risk for or have a family history of high blood pressure and/or cholesterol.

Diet

Eating a diet rich in fiber, fruits and vegetables, healthy proteins, and lean meats can have a beneficial impact on cholesterol. One randomized controlled trial suggests that eating a diet restricted in carbohydrates may help to improve metabolic health markers. Eating a healthy diet can also support healthy blood pressure levels, especially a diet that is lower in sodium.

Exercise

Getting regular physical activity is an excellent way to improve your overall health and can help to lower your overall cholesterol and blood pressure.

Weight management

Overweight and obesity can increase the risk of high blood pressure and cholesterol. If appropriate, talk to your provider about healthy and sustainable ways to lose weight. 

Lifestyle changes

Smoking and drinking alcohol can also increase the risk of these conditions. Limiting alcohol intake and quitting smoking can help to lower cholesterol and blood pressure and improve your overall health.

Medication

In some cases, your provider may recommend taking medication for your high blood pressure and/or cholesterol. 

Some of the medications used to lower and control cholesterol levels include:

Some of the medications used to lower and control blood pressure levels include:

  • Thiazide diuretics
  • Angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) inhibitors
  • Angiotensin II receptor blockers (ARBs)

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The Importance of Screening

Because neither high blood pressure nor high cholesterol usually cause symptoms, it’s very important to get your levels checked with a blood test, especially if you have a family history of either or heart disease.

Manage High Blood Pressure and High Cholesterol Online

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Frequently Asked Questions

Will lowering cholesterol help lower blood pressure?
Making lifestyle changes that positively impact your cholesterol levels (including eating a healthier diet and exercising regularly) can also have a positive impact on your blood pressure.
What are the warning signs of high cholesterol?
Unfortunately, there are no symptoms of high cholesterol. This is why it’s important to screen for high cholesterol, especially if you have a family history of heart disease and/or high cholesterol.
Are blood pressure and high cholesterol correlated?
Yes, high cholesterol and high blood pressure are two of the leading causes of heart disease. Research also suggests that having high cholesterol can increase your risk of developing high blood pressure.
Is it possible to have high cholesterol with low blood pressure?
Yes, some people can have both high cholesterol and low blood pressure.
K Health articles are all written and reviewed by MDs, PhDs, NPs, or PharmDs and are for informational purposes only. This information does not constitute and should not be relied on for professional medical advice. Always talk to your doctor about the risks and benefits of any treatment.

Zina Semenovskaya, MD

Dr. Semenovskaya specializes in emergency medicine, and received her medical degree from Weill Cornell Medical College. She is currently the medical director at Remote Emergency Medicine Consulting, LLC and splits her time working clinically as an emergency medicine attending in California and Alaska. She is the first of our doctors to be fluent in Russian.