Hypertension And Headache: Are They Related?

The truth about hypertension and headache
Most people have heard at on time or another that high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) causes headaches. 

This assumption is not entirely true. In most cases, medical research has shown that people with high blood pressure actually experience fewer headaches than the general population.

One medical study in the journal Neurology found that people with high systolic (top number) blood pressure experienced headaches up to 40% less often than the general population. Though this seems counterintuitive, researchers think that the stiffening of the blood vessels that occurs with high blood pressure actually makes it difficult for nerve endings to work properly. This in turn leads to a much lower perception of pain.

The one exception to this general rule is in the case of very high blood pressure of 180/120 mmHg or greater. A blood pressure this high is in the very dangerous and life threatening range, and requires immediate medical treatment.

Though hypertension is in large part a silent condition without obvious symptoms, a very sudden onset of headache in someone who does not typically experience headaches can be an indication of an acute high blood pressure episode, especially if there is a known history of high blood pressure.

Is there a relation between hypertension and headache?

Man with headacheNot all cases of an acute hypertension episode result in sudden headache. This is why it's important to regularly monitor pressure if you have a known history of high blood pressure. If you experience a systolic (top number) pressure of 180 mmHg or more, or a diastolic (bottom number) pressure of 120 mmHg or greater, you should call 9-1-1 right away.

Unfortunately, high blood pressure is in large part a symptomless disorder; the only way to know if you have high blood pressure is to have it checked. Hypertension is not accompanied by headaches in most cases, and chances are high that people with undiagnosed high blood pressure will experience no symptoms at all. 

Risk factors for high blood pressure include:

• Overweight and obesity
• Over age 35
• Unhealthy diet
• Lack of exercise
• Stress
• Tobacco use
• Excessive alcohol consumption
• Illnesses that may cause secondary hypertension

Because high blood pressure can result in a host of serious health problems, including coronary artery disease, aneurysm, stroke, kidney disease, eye damage, and cognitive impairment, it's important for people with a history of high blood pressure to carefully monitor pressure. Many of the health risks associated with high blood pressure can be minimized with proper treatment.

Even if you have no prior history of high blood pressure, if you have any of the risk factors listed above, you should have your doctor check your blood pressure. Don't be fooled into thinking that an absence of headaches or other symptoms means that you don't have high blood pressure. In other words, hypertension and headache are not related at all because your blood pressure can be high and probably you will not have a headache.

The risks of high blood pressure are great; so it's better to be safe than sorry. Screening is easy and painless. If it turns out you do have high blood pressure, your doctor can prescribe medication if necessary or help you develop a diet and lifestyle regimen to get your high blood pressure under control.


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