From dehydration to seasonal allergies, headaches are a symptom of numerous health conditions. Is it from stress? Do you have an ear infection? Or maybe, it’s a problem with your tooth? It can be challenging to trace the exact cause of it.
High blood pressure is known as the silent killer because it often has little to no symptoms. However, experts say there is a link between headaches and high blood pressure.
What is high blood pressure (hypertension)?
Over half of adults in the United States live with high blood pressure, also referred to as hypertension. While it is common for our blood pressure to rise throughout the day, people with hypertension experience above-average numbers consistently.
Stages of blood pressure
There are four stages of blood pressure. These phases include:
Normal- systolic less than 120 mm Hg and diastolic less than 80 mm Hg
Elevated(Prehypertension)- systolic between 120-129 mm Hg and diastolic less than 80 mm Hg
Hypertension Stage 1- systolic between 130-139 mm Hg or diastolic between 80-89 mm Hg
Hypertension Stage 2-systolic at least 140 mm Hg or diastolic at least 90 mm Hg
Treatment options for high blood pressure
Left untreated, high blood pressure can lead to severe health conditions when not treated or managed correctly:
If you are diagnosed with high blood pressure, your doctor will most likely recommend lifestyle changes and medication.
These lifestyle changes include:
Eating a healthy diet
Cutting back on sodium and caffeine
Limiting alcohol intake
Prescription drugs that are often used for hypertension include:
Diuretics- Diuril, Lasix, Midamar, and Moduretic
Angiotensin II receptor blockers- Avapro, Micardis, and Diovan
Alpha-2 Receptor Agonists- Methyldopa
Combined alpha and beta-blockers- Coreg and Normodyne
High blood pressure and headaches
As mentioned above, high blood pressure rarely, if ever, presents with symptoms. However, research has linked headaches to high blood pressure during a hypertension crisis, when blood pressure is above 180/120 mm Hg.
When blood pressure reaches severely high levels, it can cause excess pressure on the brain and blood vessels to leak. The leakage causes swelling, giving the brain little room to expand.
As a result, a person may experience a headache in addition to:
While headaches from high blood pressure are rare, if you are experiencing a hypertension crisis, seek medical attention right away for level one neuro emergency care.
How to treat headaches
Headaches can usually be treated with over-the-counter (OTC) or prescription medications and lifestyle changes for an otherwise healthy person. Always consult your physician before taking any medicines, vitamins, or supplements.
OTC pain reliever medications
Acetaminophen (Tylenol), aspirin, ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin), or naproxen (Aleve) are OTC medicines used for headaches.
Some of these may interact with other drugs and lead to gastrointestinal complications if taken too long.
Beta-blockers, like propranolol, used to treat high blood pressure, are sometimes prescribed to treat recurring migraines.
Many of the same lifestyle changes that help lower blood pressure also help with headaches. These include:
Changes to diet
Cut back or eliminate caffeine and alcohol
Increase physical activity
When to see a doctor
You should continually monitor your blood pressure, especially if you are at risk for hypertension. While you can check your blood pressure at home, you should also have a healthcare professional check it at least once a year.
Occasional headaches from things like stress or hunger typically go away with at-home treatment. However, if you have unexplained, frequent, and/or worsening headaches, you should see a doctor.
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