The ONE organ responsible for high blood pressure.
High Blood Pressure Headache
High Blood Pressure and Headaches: Is There a Link?One minute, you’re going about your day feeling fine. The next minute, your head feels like it’s weighed down by a bag of rocks. Headaches are common, but they can often start to disrupt your day-to-day life.
So the million-dollar question is: Why do I keep getting headaches?A wide range of lifestyle and environmental factors can cause headaches. (It could be that salami sandwich you had for lunch or the looming thunderstorm.) But if you have high blood pressure (or hypertension), you might wonder if there could be a link.
When does high blood pressure cause headaches?The truth is, Dr. Laffin says, slightly elevated blood pressure doesn’t cause headaches in most people. While your blood pressure is a good measure of your health and your risk for certain conditions, having mild (stage 1) or moderate (stage 2) hypertension isn’t likely to cause headaches. “The vast majority of people have no symptoms whatsoever from high blood pressure,” says Dr. Laffin. But he notes that it’s likely that if your blood pressure spikes to an unusually high level, you may have symptoms including a headache. “If you have a sudden, intense headache that’s significantly worse than usual and your blood pressure is elevated, you should seek medical attention,” stresses Dr. Laffin. It’s important to pay close attention to any spikes in your blood pressure because it could be a sign of a bigger issue, like a stroke. So, be sure to listen to your body’s warning signs and contact your healthcare provider if your blood pressure has spiked significantly and isn’t coming down.
What does a headache caused by a spike in blood pressure feel like?There’s no high-quality research showing that a headache from a spike in blood pressure feels any different from a regular headache, Dr. Laffin notes. He also points out that it can sometimes be tricky to tell what’s causing what. “Another thing to remember about headaches and blood pressure is that it’s not always the blood pressure that causes a headache,” says Dr. Laffin. “It could be the other way around. Sometimes, it’s a chicken and the egg scenario. We don’t know which comes first. Headaches can cause an elevation in blood pressure.” Depending on how the spike in blood pressure is affecting your body, you might also have other symptoms along with a headache, including:
- Chest pain.
- Blurred vision.
- Shortness of breath.
How to treat a headacheIf you have high blood pressure, you need to be mindful about which treatments you choose, especially if you’re taking high blood pressure medications.
Monitor your dietDiet plays a role in headaches for about 1 in 5 people. But the list of potential culprits — from artificial sweeteners to pickles to red wine — is long. It’s best to keep a food diary to find out if any foods are a headache trigger.
Over-the-counter medicineIf your headache is becoming unbearable, your first instinct might be to reach for some type of pain reliever. Just know that if you’re taking high blood pressure medications, aspirin or acetaminophen are your best options, Dr. Laffin says. Talk to your doctor about other over-the-counter or prescription options to make sure they’re safe for you.
Frequently Asked Questions
What can a hypertension headache feel like? Headaches triggered by high blood pressure typically cause a pulsing sensation that's felt all over the head rather than on just one side. If your headache is severe, happens suddenly, or is accompanied by chest pain or shortness of breath, get immediate medical attention.
Hypertension headaches might indicate a hypertension crisis — a severe increase in blood pressure, which can cause stroke and damage to vital organs. If you suspect you have a hypertension headache, you should seek immediate medical attention from your doctor to gauge whether your condition needs urgent treatment.