Blood Pressure Headaches

Short of measuring it with a blood pressure monitor, it can be hard to realize blood pressure is high. This is because unless it is dangerously elevated, high blood pressure often does not cause symptoms. When symptoms related to high blood pressure do occur, they could include severe headaches and should not be ignored.
Read on to learn more about when a headache could be due to high blood pressure as well as the related symptoms and treatment.

Does High Blood Pressure Actually Cause Headaches?

The science is somewhat conflicting as to whether elevated blood pressure can cause headaches:

Evidence in Support of the Theory: Based on research published in the Iranian Journal of Neurology, high blood pressure headaches generally affect both sides of the head. The pain often pulsates and worsens with physical exertion or activity. The study suggests that high blood pressure impacts the blood-brain barrier and therefore can lead to headaches. Hypertension can also create undue pressure in the brain causing blood vessel leakage in the organ. This can lead to swelling which is an issue since the brain has nowhere to expand within the skull. Swelling places additional pressure on the brain which can lead to symptoms including headache, nausea, dizziness, blurred vision, weakness, and seizures.

Evidence Contradicting the Theory: The position maintained by the American Heart Association is that people typically do not experience headaches due to high blood pressure unless it rises above 180/120. Research has also investigated if there is a link between having regular headaches and overall heart health. One American Journal of Hypertension study tracked more than 1,900 people with high blood pressure for 30 years while monitoring their headaches. The results indicated no correlation between headache occurrence and the risk of cardiovascular death. As such, people with regular headaches that are unrelated to hypertension are not at risk of related heart issues.

Treating Hypertensive Headaches

Anyone suspecting their headaches are related to high blood pressure, should ensure they seek medical attention immediately. Failure to address the situation could lead to undesirable side effects or further organ damage.

If hypertensive headaches occur with other symptoms, doctors classify it as a hypertensive emergency. Often, this condition will necessitate blood pressure control via IV medication. Included amongst these medications are:

* Sodium Nitroprusside
* Nitroglycerin
* Labetalol
* Nicardipine

Regardless of if they have the medications or not, it is critically important that patients do not attempt to reduce their blood pressure on their own because doing so too rapidly, can impact how blood flow in the brain and lead to unwanted side effects. Instead, patients should visit an emergency facility where a doctor can lower their blood pressure in a controlled, safe environment.
If left untreated, serious side effects can result from a hypertensive crisis, including:

* Chest pain
* Heart attack
* Eye damage
* Kidney damage
* Pulmonary edema (fluid in the lungs)
* Seizures
* Stroke
As such, it is vital that severe headaches and any related symptoms to high blood pressure are not ignored. If experiencing symptoms, patients should call 911 and get immediate medical treatment.

Different Types of Headaches and Causes