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Hypertension Headaches: Here's Everything You Need to Know

Hypertension Headaches: Here's Everything You Need to Know

It’s not uncommon for people who have frequent headaches to suspect that they might have hypertension. But is having a headache really a sign of hypertension? Or perhaps, there might be another explanation for frequent headaches?

What are Hypertension Headaches?

Hypertension headaches are thought of as a type of headache brought about by high blood pressure. People who reportedly have hypertension headaches say that it feels like constant pressure pushing on the sides of their head.

The prevailing theory behind this is that hypertension headaches happen because hypertension increases the pressure on the brain. This increased pressure causes swelling in the brain, and can cause headaches as well as symptoms such as nausea or dizziness.

A lot of people also believe that this is the reason why people feel dizzy or nauseous after eating fatty foods; because their blood pressure has increased. But is this really the case? Does having high blood pressure really cause headaches?

What Are the Types of Hypertension?

Does Hypertension Cause More Frequent Headaches?

For decades, researchers have been trying to understand any possible link between hypertension and headaches. Though, most studies have found that hypertension doesn’t necessarily cause headaches.

According to one study, published in the American Journal of Hypertension in 2016, hypertension didn’t necessarily cause headaches in patients. The researchers studied about 1,900 people with hypertension and checked the frequency and intensity of their headaches within a span of 30 years.

They found that having more frequent headaches didn’t necessarily mean that a person had severe hypertension. In fact, those who had more frequent headaches had a lower risk of mortality compared to others in the study.

Interestingly, the researchers found that despite not causing headaches, a large number of the respondents reported more frequent headaches.

hypertension headaches

Another study, done in 1953, found that patients who knew they had hypertension reported more frequent headaches. In contrast, patients who had no idea they had hypertension reported fewer instances of headaches.

This means that the more people were aware of the condition, the more likely they were to report symptoms they felt were related to that condition. However, this doesn’t mean that high blood pressure itself can cause headaches.

Another interesting point is that majority of persons with high blood pressure tend to be male. But when it comes to headaches, women report more frequent headaches compared to men. This means that having frequent headaches doesn’t necessarily imply high blood pressure.

So are Hypertension Headaches Not Real?

While it is highly improbable that high blood pressure causes frequent headaches, this doesn’t mean that it can’t happen.

When a person experiences a hypertensive crisis, or a severe rise in their blood pressure, a severe headache is one of the usual symptoms. This happens because their blood pressure becomes dangerously high and can cause damage to a person’s brain.

Doctors refer to this condition as hypertensive encephalopathy, and in pregnant women, doctors refer to it as eclampsia. It usually occurs with a blood pressure of 200/130, but it has been reported to happen in blood pressure as low as 160/100.

The symptoms of this condition include vomiting, nausea, a severe headache, blurred vision, seizures, or even a coma. This condition can also affect other organs of the body, such as the kidneys and the heart.

The usual form of treatment would be to use antihypertensive drugs to lower the patient’s blood pressure.

Headaches caused by a hypertensive crisis can be very severe and painful, and not the “hypertension headaches” that people usually think of.

Key Takeaways

If you frequently have headaches, don’t immediately worry that you might have hypertension. It’s very likely that something else might be causing your headaches, such as too much stress or lack of sleep.

The best thing to do is to visit your doctor and tell them about your symptoms. They can best be able to diagnose your problem and provide you with the right treatment to help alleviate your headaches.

Learn more about Headaches and Migraines here.

Hello Health Group does not provide medical advice, diagnosis or treatment.

Sources

Secondary headaches attributed to arterial hypertension, https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3829292/, Accessed March 10, 2021

What are the Symptoms of High Blood Pressure? | American Heart Association, https://www.heart.org/en/health-topics/high-blood-pressure/why-high-blood-pressure-is-a-silent-killer/what-are-the-symptoms-of-high-blood-pressure, Accessed March 10, 2021

Paradoxical Significance of Headache in Hypertension | American Journal of Hypertension | Oxford Academic, https://academic.oup.com/ajh/article/29/9/1109/2622261?login=true, Accessed March 10, 2021

Hypertension and headache: a coincidence without any real association, https://www.scielo.br/scielo.php?script=sci_arttext&pid=S1516-31802003000500001, Accessed March 10, 2021

What type of headache do you have? – Harvard Health, https://www.health.harvard.edu/healthbeat/what-type-of-headache-do-you-have, Accessed March 10, 2021

Headache and hypertension: refuting the myth | Journal of Neurology, Neurosurgery & Psychiatry, https://jnnp.bmj.com/content/72/4/431, Accessed March 10, 2021

Headaches and the Treatment of Blood Pressure | Circulation, https://www.ahajournals.org/doi/full/10.1161/CIRCULATIONAHA.104.529628, Accessed March 10, 2021

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Written by Jan Alwyn Batara Updated May 17
Medically reviewed by Nicole Aliling, M.D.
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