High blood pressure, also known as hypertension, affects about 1 out of every 3 adults in the United States. This common condition has little to no symptoms, which means that many people that have high blood pressure don’t even know that they have it.
Having high blood pressure is also a strong indicator of increased risk for heart disease, heart attacks, and strokes. That’s why it’s important to have your blood pressure checked at least annually by a medical professional.
There is ongoing medical research into the correlation between high blood pressure and headaches.
High Blood Pressure and Headaches
The verdict is out on whether or not high blood pressure can be proven to cause headaches. Some studies indicate that there is no connection, while others show strong correlation between the two.
The American Heart Association (AHA) supports research that claims headaches are not a symptom of high blood pressure. In fact, the AHA suggests that people with high blood pressure are less likely to have recurring headaches.
There is one thing that we do know, however. Very high blood pressure can trigger an event known as malignant hypertension. Malignant hypertension is also referred to as a hypertensive crisis.
During a hypertensive crisis, pressure in the cranium builds as a result of your blood pressure suddenly spiking up to critical levels. The resulting headache feels unlike any other kind of migraine or head pain. Traditional headache treatments such as aspirin are ineffective to relieve the pain.
In addition to a headache, malignant hypertension usually is also associated with blurred vision, chest pain, and nausea. If you believe you are experiencing a hypertensive crisis, you need to get to a hospital emergency room right away, or call 911.
No matter what the cause of your headache, those with a headache seek fast relief. However, if you do have diagnosed high blood pressure and are on medication to treat it, it’s important to be mindful of which treatment you choose. Always check the label of your medications and make sure that you won’t be doing more harm than good with the way you choose to treat your headache.
There are natural ways to treat headaches at home, and adding certain foods to your diet is a great place to start. Some headaches are caused by inflammation. Anti-inflammatory agents are all foods that will reduce inflammation in your body and improve circulation. These anti-inflammatories include:
Eating whole grains is always a good idea. However, make sure to avoid white flour if you’re having a particularly nasty headache. Reaching for whole grains instead will balance your blood sugar levels, which has been shown to control migraines.
Certain essential oils, such as peppermint and lavender, soothe the central nervous system. These oils can help provide relief from that “head pounding” feeling, especially in the case of headaches that are caused by stress.
Drinking too much caffeine has been shown to increase the amount of headaches that people have, in addition to elevating your blood pressure. Be mindful of how much caffeine is in your diet. Also remember that if you’re cutting back on caffeine, chances are that you will have a headache as a symptom of withdrawal.
Over-the-counter medicines like aspirin are common headache treatments. If you have high blood pressure, you should only take aspirin if your blood pressure is currently well-controlled. According to the Mayo Clinic, daily aspirin therapy is recommended for some people that are at higher risk of stroke.
When to See a Doctor
If you are having frequent headaches, it’s important to determine the cause. Mental health issues, dietary concerns, or circulation problems are just some potential causes. Make an appointment with your primary care physician. Find out if your blood pressure is in a healthy range, and discuss any concerns that you have with your doctor. Undiagnosed high blood pressure can lead to kidney damage, heart disease, and other permanent problems.
If you have diagnosed high blood pressure and you feel a building pressure in the area of your skull, call for medical assistance right away. This could be indicative of a hypertensive crisis and needs to be addressed immediately.
High blood pressure is always a cause for concern. However, with a correct diagnosis and a treatment plan, it can be managed in a variety of ways.
Frequent, recurring headaches can also be a cause for concern. As with any medical condition, it’s important to find the cause of the headaches. Whether or not you believe that your blood pressure is a direct cause of your headaches, speak to your doctor about the symptoms you are experiencing.
There are some lifestyle choices that can impact both high blood pressure and headaches. Taking an early morning walk is one way to improve circulation and reduce stress. Eating lots of green, leafy vegetables and anti-inflammatory foods is another way to make sure that your blood pressure stays healthy. Potassium and magnesium are essential minerals for anyone looking to be heart-healthy. Make sure to be informed and take any medications that your doctor prescribes.