Can High Blood Cholesterol Cause a Stroke or Heart Attack?

We constantly hear about high blood cholesterol and how bad it is for us. But it is not just lip service. High blood cholesterol can cause permanent disability and even lead to death. The idea that it won’t happen to you is just a way of making yourself feel better about a problem that you do not want to attend to.

Without tackling your high blood cholesterol as soon as possible, you are sitting on a ticking time bomb which will most likely explode in due course. The fact is that high blood cholesterol can cause a range of complications and affect your body in several ways. The two most commonly known and feared conditions associated with blood cholesterol is a stroke and a heart attack.

High blood cholesterol is so serious a problem that even insurance companies may not give cover you if your levels are too high. There is no age group that is safe from developing high blood cholesterol or suffering from complications. Therefore high blood cholesterol needs to be attended to immediately once diagnosed.

Heart Attacks and High Blood Cholesterol

A heart attack occurs when your heart muscle is starved off oxygen. It mainly arises as a consequence of coronary artery disease. The heart muscle needs a constant supply of blood laden with oxygen to continue functioning. This blood reaches the heart muscle through the coronary arteries.

With high blood cholesterol, you are more likely to develop a condition known as atherosclerosis. This is where fatty plaques develop in the artery wall thereby narrowing it. Atherosclerosis is more likely to occur in people who suffer from high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure (hypertension).

The coronary artery narrows gradually over months and years. Eventually the fatty plaque may rupture and a blood clot forms at the site. This can instantly block the already narrowed coronary artery. The blood supply to the heart muscle is cut off which means that not enough oxygen is reaching the heart muscle. Eventually the affected portion of the muscle dies (heart attack or myocardial infarction).

Strokes and High Blood Cholesterol

A stroke is a condition where portion of the brain tissue is damaged permanently due to reduced blood flow. As with a heart attack, it is a consequence of inadequate oxygen supply. There are many contributing factors to the development of a stroke but high blood cholesterol and high blood pressure (hypertension) are the two main risk factors.

A stoke essentially develops the same way as a heart attack does except that the area affect is the brain and not the heart. The neck arteries (carotid arteries) are a common site that are affected. Atherosclerosis of the carotid arteries means that it narrows due to the build up of fatty plaques in the artery walls.

Eventually the arteries may become fully occluded and the blood supply to brain is cut off to a degree that a portion of the brain tissue dies. Although this is not the only way that a stroke develops, it is one of the preventable mechanisms of a stroke. Controlling your high blood cholesterol levels are therefore an extremely important measure in preventing a stroke.