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Headache High Blood Pressure

Headache high blood pressure. Is this the term that runs through your mind if you are starting to have headaches? Sometimes the headaches will start first, before someone even knows that they have hypertension. Blood pressure issues more often than not are 'silent' as the person is unaware of the fact that they are having this problem.

High blood pressure or hypertension (HTN) most of the time has a cause that is unknown. Part of the time it may be due to genetics and then is referred to as "familial hypertension". Occasionally, it might be caused by medical conditions such as cancer, hyperthyroid, and even pregnancy. Some medications can also induce HTN.

Often times, with medical conditions, when the condition is corrected, the hypertension resolves.

There is one type of headache associated with high blood pressure that could be an emergency. This is the thunderclap headache. This can be a serious issue if you have a history of a cerebral aneurysm, or out pouching in an artery. Untreated high blood pressure could cause it to rupture and cause a stroke.

high blood pressure headache, thunderclap headache


According to the American Heart Association, BP that is at or under 120/80 is considered normal. Here are the ranges and classifications for hypertension.

  • 121/81 to 139/89.
This is early or pre-hypertension. Either the top (systolic) or bottom (diastolic) number can be abnormal to have the diagnosis.
  • 140/90 to 159/99.
This is Stage I hypertension. Again, either number can be abnormal to have the diagnosis.
  • 160/100 and above.
This is Stage II hypertension and at this point if chronic and untreated, organ damage may occur. By this I mean the small vessels in the body which are found in the retinas, the kidneys and in the brain. If BP reaches 210/120 or above, this is called hypertensive crisis and necessitates going to the emergency room for treatment. At this point IV anti-hypertensive medicattion is needed to rapidly bring the problem under control before organ damage can occur.

What Does The Headache Feel Like?

A headache high blood pressure is not like a migraine. There ususally is no sign of photophobia (light avoidance), phonophobia (sound avoidance) or nausea.

The headache high blood pressure connection usually means head pain that is dull and diffuse in nature. It is all over your head, also known as "holocephalic". Some patients have told me that it feels like a pressure sensation when it starts getting worse as the blood pressure rises.

When the blood pressure rises to the hypertensive crisis stage (210/120 or above) not only is there a bad headache, but dizziness, and loss of vision or blurry vision can occur. Tachycardia, or rapid heart rate, may or may not happen.

The cause of the headache is the vasoconstriction and dilation of the arteries just inside the skull. As the blood pressure fluctuates, the body responds by trying to counter-regulate the size of the arteries. Known as autoregulation it is one way that the brain is trying to protect the body from damage. Unfortunately, all of the change in arterial size leads to the headache high blood pressure phenomenon.

Treatment

Treatment for this type of headache involves getting the HTN under control. This starts with diet and exercise...watch the salt intake and the alcohol. Stop smoking as soon as you can!

Medications for high blood pressure range from diurectics to drugs that work on the arteries or those that affect the hormones regulating blood pressure. Once the pressure comes down, the headaches resolve. If you also have migraine, then medications such as verapamil or propranalol might be a good choice, as these will treat both headache high blood pressure, and migraine.

If you think you have high blood pressure, and you have headaches, see your doctor soon and discuss options.

Read more about different types of headaches.

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