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High Blood Pressure and Headaches

The link between these two conditions is complicated, and worth discussing with your doctor.

Many people who lead reasonably healthy lives are surprised when they find out that they have high blood pressure. High blood pressure affects one in three adults in the U.S.1 Often, people don’t show symptoms, which is why high blood pressure (also known as “hypertension”) can lead to health problems such as heart attacks, heart disease, and strokes.2 

What Is High Blood Pressure?

Blood pressure is determined by both the amount of blood that your heart pumps through the body and the amount of resistance to the blood flow in your arteries.4 When you have high blood pressure, it’s caused by the force of your blood consistently pushing too high against the walls of your arteries.5

The Headache Connection

For nearly a century, researchers believed that high blood pressure was a contributing factor in headaches.6 For those with a particularly elevated blood pressure of 200/110 or higher, this still holds true.7 Recently, however, a large study published in the scientific journal American Academy of Neurology has called this belief into question. The study found that most people with high blood pressure may actually be less prone to headache than those with normal blood pressure.8 The study concluded that increases in systolic blood pressure and pulse pressure may decrease the prevalence of headaches.8 However, more studies need to be done to determine the exact relationship between hypertension and the risk of headaches.

Medication Complication

Some high blood pressure medications may cause headaches (along with dizziness or nausea.)9 If you are experiencing headaches while on blood pressure medication, be sure to consult with your doctor.

Show References

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1. “High Blood Pressure Fact Sheet.” Division for Heart Disease and Stroke Prevention, Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, 16 June 2016, www.cdc.gov/dhdsp/data_statistics/fact_sheets/fs_bloodpressure.htm.

2. “Hypertension (High Blood Pressure).” National Headache Foundation, 25 Oct. 2007, www.headaches.org/2007/10/25/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/.

3. Watson, Kathryn. “Does High Blood Pressure Cause Headaches?” Edited by Steve Kim, Healthline, Healthline Media, 5 Feb. 2016, www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/headache#overview1.

4. “High Blood Pressure (Hypertension).” Mayo Clinic, Mayo Foundation for Medical Education and Research, 9 Sept. 2016, www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/basics/definition/con-20019580.

5. “What Is High Blood Pressure?” American Heart Association, 5 Oct. 2017, www.heart.org/HEARTORG/Conditions/HighBloodPressure/AboutHighBloodPressure/What-is-High-Blood-Pressure_UCM_301759_Article.jsp#.WgHpQRNSy1t.

6. Hagen, K, et al. “Blood Pressure and Risk of Headache: a Prospective Study of 22 685 Adults in Norway.” J Neurol Neurosurg Psychiatry, 21 Nov. 2001, pp. 463–466., jnnp.bmj.com/content/jnnp/72/4/463.full.pdf.

7. “Hypertension (High Blood Pressure).” National Headache Foundation, 25 Oct. 2007, www.headaches.org/2007/10/25/hypertension-high-blood-pressure/.

8. Tronvik, E, et al. “High Pulse Pressure Protects against Headache: Prospective and Cross-Sectional Data (HUNT Study).” Neurology, Apr. 2008, http://n.neurology.org/content/70/16/1329.full.

9. “High Blood Pressure Medicines.” MedlinePlus Medical Encyclopedia, U.S. National Library of Medicine, 21 May 2017, medlineplus.gov/ency/article/007484.htm.

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