What’s the Difference Between Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

Blood pressure and cholesterol are two terms mentioned together all the time. It’s because many times an association exists between the two of them. A common question frequently asked is, what is the difference between blood pressure and cholesterol?

Blood pressure and cholesterol are different because blood pressure is the amount of pressure the blood exerts against the walls of blood vessels while the heart beats and rests between beats. Cholesterol is a waxy substance found in the body’s cells produced by the liver and consumed from food. 

Disclaimer: Some links in this article are affiliate links which means I may earn a small commission at no extra cost to you. As an Amazon associate and eBay partner I earn from qualifying purchases.

The Difference Between Blood Pressure and Cholesterol

What is blood pressure? Blood pressure measures the amount of pressure the blood is exerting against the walls of blood vessels. There are two kinds of blood pressure:

  1. Systolic blood pressure: The upper or top blood pressure number. It measures the amount of pressure against the blood vessel walls when the heart beats.
  2. Diastolic blood pressure: The lower or bottom blood pressure number. It measures the amount of pressure against the blood vessel walls when the heart is resting between beats.

What is cholesterol? Cholesterol is a waxy, fatty substance produced by the liver and circulates in the blood. The body needs cholesterol to make certain hormones, produce vitamin D and build healthy cells. There are two kinds of cholesterol:

  1. Low-density lipoprotein (LDL): LDL, otherwise known as the bad cholesterol, is the type that builds up in the blood vessels.
  2. High-density lipoprotein (HDL): HDL, otherwise known as the good cholesterol, carries the LDL cholesterol away from the blood vessels and back to the liver. In the liver the LDL is broken down and passed out of the body.

Cholesterol is also consumed from certain foods like meat, poultry and dairy products 1.

How is blood pressure measured? Blood pressure is measured by inflating a cuff around the upper arm until the brachial artery’s blood flow is stopped. A stethoscope is used to listen to the blood flow while the air in the cuff is deflated.

The results are measured in systolic and diastolic blood pressure. For example, 120/80 2. (120 is the systolic and 80 is the diastolic).

Home monitors are becoming more popular and recommended by the American College of Cardiology. I use and recommend one made by the same company which supplies most of the hospitals. Check out my review of it here, Welch Allyn 1700 Series Home BP Monitor Review.

How is cholesterol tested? Cholesterol is tested using a blood test called a lipoprotein panel. Fasting for 9 to 12 hours before the blood is drawn is required if triglycerides are also tested. The blood is tested at a lab for total cholesterol, LDL cholesterol, HDL cholesterol and non HDL cholesterol.

How Do You Know if You Have High Blood Pressure or Cholesterol?

Many people take their blood pressure and are unsure if the results are high. This is especially true since the latest guidelines published in 2017 changed the blood pressure ranges. Therefore, you may be asking, how do I know if my blood pressure is high?

High blood pressure is systolic blood pressure 130 mmHg or higher or diastolic blood pressure 80 mmHg or higher.

Many people also ask, how do I know if cholesterol is high? After obtaining the results of the lipoprotein panel, the cholesterol numbers are higher than the healthy levels. The following are the normal ranges for cholesterol by sex and age:

Anyone Age 19 or Younger

Cholesterol TypeHealthy Range
Total CholesterolLess than 170 mg/dl
LDLLess than 110 mg/dl
HDLMore than 45 mg/dl
Non-HDLLess than 120 mg/dl

Men Age 20 or Older

Cholesterol TypeHealthy Range
Total Cholesterol125 to 200 mg/dl
LDLLess than 100 mg/dl
HDLMore than 39 mg/dl
Non-HDLLess than 130 mg/dl

Women Age 20 or Older

Cholesterol TypeHealthy Range
Total Cholesterol125 to 200 mg/dl
LDLLess than 100 mg/dl
HDLMore than 49 mg/dl
Non-HDLLess than 130 mg/dl

The normal recommended cholesterol levels differ by age and sex. The levels indicated above are taken from the 2018 guidelines on the management of blood cholesterol 3.

Why Cholesterol and Blood Pressure Matters

High levels of cholesterol may increase the risk of the following:

  • Cardiovascular disease
  • Heart attack
  • Stroke
  • High blood pressure

Excess levels of cholesterol can stick to the walls of arteries. Over time it will harden and form plaque that damages the arteries and makes them stiffer. The build-up of plaque narrows the inside of the artery making it more difficult for blood to flow through.

The artery can become so narrow a blood clot will form and block the flow of blood causing a cardiovascular event 4.

High blood pressure over time can lead to the following:

  • Stroke
  • Heart attack
  • Kidney disease or failure
  • Sexual dysfunction
  • Peripheral artery disease
  • Angina
  • Heart failure
  • Vision loss
  • Damaged blood vessels

If blood pressure increases to higher than 180/120 mmHg, it’s called a hypertensive crisis 5. It can be either number. If this happens, wait five minutes and measure it again. If the second reading is just as high and there’s none of the following symptoms, notify a medical professional:

  • Chest pain
  • Shortness of breath
  • Back pain
  • Change in vision
  • Speech problem
  • Numbness/weakness

If you have a high blood pressure reading more than 180 or 120 mmHg and one of the symptoms listed above, call 911 immediately.

I wrote a whole blog post about hypertensive crisis which includes some symptoms which can indicate it’s happening to you. Read about it here, Hypertensive Crisis – You’re Calling 911 or a Doctor!

health insurance website

What’s More Important Cholesterol or Blood Pressure?

Both cholesterol and blood pressure are important. Each one affects millions of people every year and increases the risk of cardiovascular disease. High cholesterol and high blood pressure are both main causes of heart disease and stroke 6.


Does lowering your cholesterol lower your blood pressure? Lowering cholesterol can help lower blood pressure over time. Lower cholesterol may prevent plaque build-up and narrowing of the arteries which can raise blood pressure.

Short-term, if cholesterol is lowered through a change in diet, exercise or weight loss, blood pressure may also benefit from the improved lifestyle changes 7.

Read Next – More Related High BP Articles From This Website!

Best BP Products For High Blood Pressure

High Blood Pressure Stage 2 – The MORE SERIOUS High BP Range

Can High Blood Pressure Cause Heart Valve Damage?

Can Pain Cause High Blood Pressure?

Can Breathing Exercises Lower Blood Pressure?

Article Resources: Blood Pressure Explained follows strict guidelines to ensure our content is the highest journalistic standard. It's our mission to provide the reader with accurate, honest and unbiased guidance. Our content relies on medical associations, research institutions, government agencies and study resources. Learn more by reading our editorial policy.
  1. American Heart Association: What is Cholesterol[]
  2. American Heart Association: Understanding Blood Pressure Readings[]
  3. AHA Journals: 2018 AHA/ACC/AACVPR/AAPA/ABC/ACPM/ADA/AGS/APhA/ASPC/NLA/PCNA Guideline on the Management of Blood Cholesterol: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines[]
  4. American Heart Association: HDL (Good), LDL (Bad) Cholesterol and Triglycerides[]
  5. American Heart Association: Hypertensive Crisis: When You Should Call 911 for High Blood Pressure[]
  6. CDC: High Blood Pressure and Cholesterol[]
  7. Cleveland Clinic: Cholesterol Numbers: What Do They Mean[]

Kevin Garce

Kevin Garce is a Certified Health Coach who encourages people by informing them on blood pressure topics important to them. His years of research and knowledge inspire people to achieve their goals. Read more here About Me

Recent Posts