Over the years, the idea that high blood pressure can cause a hypertension headache has been met with contention, although there is research to support both opinions. The reality is that either way, both conditions have to be dealt with and managed taking lifestyle, diet, and exercise programs into account. If not, there can be some dire consequences.
According to research by the Centre for Disease Control and Prevention, 1 in 3 adults in the United States is affected by high blood pressure (hypertension). Despite being an increasingly common condition, it is also known as the ‘silent killer’, often with little to no symptoms. This means that people who suffer from high blood pressure may not even be aware they have it.
Headaches and High Blood Pressure – What’s The Connection?
For the research in favor of it, a hypertension headache can happen as a result of high blood pressure which affects the blood-brain barrier. When blood pressure is elevated, it can put pressure on the brain. This can result in blood leaking from the blood vessels in it.
The pressure can also cause swelling in the brain. This is an issue because the rigid skull does not provide it with any space to expand. Research shows that the pain experienced is typically on both sides of the head. It tends to pulsate and can worsen with any physical activity.
Aside from the headaches, the resulting symptoms can include nausea, dizziness, confusion, seizures, weakness, and blurred vision. These will often subside within the space of an hour if you take treatment to reduce your blood pressure.
A hypertension headache can occur in the following way. As your blood pressure increases, there is a high chance that you may develop ‘malignant hypertension’, which is also known as a ‘hypertensive crisis’. In this scenario, the spike in pressure in the cranium builds up to critical levels.
This will result in a type of migraine that is unlike anything you have ever experienced before. In these cases, you will find that conventional medication such as aspirin will not be sufficient to relieve the pain.
A hypertensive crisis can be associated with the following symptoms:
- Severe chest pain
- Nausea and vomiting
- Severe headache, accompanied by confusion and blurred vision
- Severe anxiety
- Shortness of breath
In cases where you may feel like you are experiencing a hypertensive crisis, it is recommended to visit a hospital or emergency room immediately.
Other Types of Hypertension Headache
Idiopathic Intracranial Hypertension
This is high blood pressure in the skull that can inevitably lead to headaches every day. This usually occurs in women at childbearing age as well as obese women. Related symptoms can include:
- Double / Obscured Vision
- Throbbing noise in one’s ears
Severely increased blood pressure can also lead to the swelling of the brain. This can result in far worse headaches, as well as:
- Nausea and vomiting
- In extreme cases, a coma
A lot of the time, doctors will be unable to find the exact cause of these specific types of headaches. There are, however, certain factors that can increase the risk of developing hypertension which brings about the hypertension headache. These include:
- High alcohol intake
- High salt intake
- Aging – blood vessels tend to become stiffer with age
- Stress or Depression
Certain medical conditions and medications can result in raised blood pressure, known as secondary hypertension. These include conditions such as:
- Preeclampsia during pregnancy
- Chronic kidney disease
- Adrenal gland disorder
How to Prevent High Blood Pressure and Hypertension Headache
High blood pressure, though increasingly common, can be deadly. In order to control it and prevent the onset of hypertension headaches, it is recommended that you follow a healthy lifestyle.
No matter the type of headache you may be suffering from, you will certainly be seeking quick relief. However, in the case of a hypertension headache, it is highly recommended that you see a doctor first, and stay mindful of which treatment you choose.
Always be sure to check the label of the medication you are taking, to ensure that you are treating the problem and not doing more harm.
There are a few ways to prevent your blood pressure from rising, thereby reducing the chances of a hypertension headache. These include:
Follow a Healthy Diet
It is advised to cut down the volume of salt in your food and increase the amount of fruits and vegetables you eat. Salt automatically increases your blood pressure, so the more salt you eat the higher your blood pressure will be. It is recommended that you eat less than 6g (0.2oz) of salt, daily, which is around one teaspoon.
By following a low-fat, high fiber diet, including wholegrain rice, pasta, and bread, you can help reduce your chances of high blood pressure. You should also aim to eat around 5 portions of fruits and vegetables daily.
Consumption of whole grains is always highly recommended. It is also advised that you avoid white flour if you are suffering from a migraine or hypertension headache. By avoiding white grains and instead consuming whole grains, this will help balance your blood sugar, which can help reduce the likelihood of experiencing this condition.
As some hypertension headaches are caused by inflammation, you can start by adding certain foods to your diet. Some foods have anti-inflammatory properties and can naturally reduce inflammation in your body and improve your body’s overall circulation.
These include the following foods:
Reduce Your Caffeine Intake
Excessive consumption of caffeine has been shown to increase the overall frequency of headaches while also elevating your blood pressure. Drinking more than 4 cups of coffee daily may likely increase your blood pressure. Try to cut down on caffeine-rich drinks such as energy drinks or Cola.
While cutting down caffeine will eventually lessen your migraines, you may initially have some headaches as a symptom of withdrawal.
With our busy lifestyles, it is normal to rely on caffeinated drinks to give us our daily boost. However, it is imperative that this does not become your main source of fluids.
Limit Your Alcohol Consumption
Over time, regular alcohol intake will likely raise your blood pressure. Alcohol is high in calories, which will likely make you gain weight. This means you will heighten your chances of increasing your blood pressure. Men and women are advised not to drink more than 14 units of alcohol per week. It is also suggested that you spread your drinking over 3 days or more if you do consume as much as 14 units weekly.
Exercise Regularly to Stay Healthy and Lose Weight
Being active and exercising regularly will almost certainly lower your blood pressure by keeping your blood vessels healthy and in good condition. It is recommended that adults should do at least 30 to 60 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise each day. This can include walking fast, cycling, gardening, or swimming.
Being overweight also means your heart needs to work harder to pump your blood. This can easily raise your blood pressure. Losing just a few pounds will likely improve your overall health and positively impact your blood pressure.
Over-The-Counter and Prescribed Medication
In the case that none of the above seems to work, it is suggested that you try over the counter medication such as Aspirin before moving to stronger treatments.
Should these medications fail to work, it is highly recommended that you visit a doctor or a specialist to ascertain what the exact cause is and which medications will work for you.
Given that hypertension headaches can generally be a result of high blood pressure, it is crucial that a doctor assess you before you take any medication, so as to ensure you are not increasing your chances of a stroke or any other related condition.
Dangers Of Not Managing Your Blood Pressure
In addition to experiencing an uncomfortable or frequent hypertension headache, there are other concerns you should take note of should you not manage your blood pressure properly.
Earlier we mentioned a hypertensive crisis – this refers to a significant increase in blood pressure that can easily lead to a stroke. The blood vessels can quickly become inflamed and start leaking fluids or blood. In this case, the heart may not be able to pump blood effectively.
Hypertensive crisis’ is divided into two main categories:
In an urgent hypertensive situation, your blood pressure may be high, but you would not require hospitalization. In this case, if your blood pressure is 180/120 or higher, it is recommended that you wait about 5 minutes and then take the measurement again.
If your second reading is equally as high, it is recommended that you contact your doctor or healthcare provider. Symptoms of hypertensive urgency include:
In an emergency hypertensive crisis, your blood pressure will be extremely high and has likely already caused damage to your organs. Generally, an emergency hypertensive crisis can be associated with complications that could very likely be life-threatening.
If you have high blood pressure and are already experiencing any of the symptoms which we mentioned previously, seek medical attention immediately. Treatment for a hypertensive crisis can include hospitalization and treatment with intravenous or oral medicine.
Pay attention to any warning signs of high blood pressure, which can include headaches. If not treated or managed, it can lead to a hypertensive emergency which is potentially life-threatening.
A lot of the lifestyle changes recommended to manage either condition are similar. Eating healthy, exercising, and taking any prescribed medication can help you to manage them both.