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Headache Caused by High Blood Pressure

written by: angiem1981 • edited by: Diana Cooper • updated: 10/23/2010

A high blood pressure headache can be indicative of a serious medical emergency. This condition rarely occurs until hypertension reaches stages that can potentially cause stroke and hospitalization is typically required.

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    Is a High Blood Pressure Headache Common?

    Contrary to popular belief, headaches and high blood pressure do not typically go hand-in-hand. According to a study released by the American Heart Association, those that suffer from hypertension are usually less likely to suffer from headache than their peers with normal blood pressure levels. However, this does not necessarily mean that the patient won’t suffer a headache with high blood pressure and will depend on the individual.

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    Why are Some More Likely Than Others To Develop It?

    Those that experience high blood pressure with a headache are typically people whose blood pressure has become extremely high. This is most often noted when the blood pressure reaches limits of 180/110, which is considered a dangerous situation and immediate medical attention is necessary. Levels of hypertension that has reached this stage and beyond are commonly referred to as a hypertensive crisis or malignant hypertension. You should keep in mind though; hypertension reaching or going beyond this threshold will not necessarily cause a headache in all individuals. Many times there are no warning signs or indications of a hypertensive crisis when it strikes.

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    Risks Associated With This Symptom

    As previously mentioned, pain is not felt in most cases of hypertension and usually only occurs when the blood pressure becomes dangerously high. One of the most common risks associated with this kind of high blood pressure is stroke. As a matter of fact, hypertensive crisis is one of the leading causes of a stroke. One of the signs and symptoms that a stroke has occurred can be acute onset of headache with no known causes and severe pain.

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    Treatment Options for the High Blood Pressure Headache

    If your headache is indeed caused by hypertension, you should get immediate medical attention. This is especially so when the blood pressure is at or has exceeded 180/110. When hypertension is believed to be the cause of the pain, this indicates that you may have already suffered a stroke. Despite popular belief, you can have a mild stroke without the major physical signs and symptoms. If the headache is accompanied by confusion, numbness or tingling, slurred speech and/or vision loss or dizziness, call 911 right away. The only effective treatment for a headache caused by hypertension is the treatment for the cause, high blood pressure.

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    Other Considerations

    One of the best ways to prevent malignant hypertension with a headache is to control your blood pressure. Those considered for high risk for developing this condition or have already been diagnosed with hypertension should monitor their blood pressure regularly. In addition to this, your physician may prescribe a special diet, medications and an exercise program to help get your numbers under control.

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    Bibliography

    Hypertension. MedlinePlus. U.S. National Library of Medicine and National Institute of Health. Updated 29, July 2010. Viewed 22, October 2010. http://www.nlm.nih.gov/medlineplus/ency/article/000468.htm

    Your High Blood Pressure Questions Answered-Headaches. American Heart Association. 11, November 2009. Viewed 22, October 2010. http://www.americanheart.org/presenter.jhtml?identifier=3057660