High Blood Pressure Headaches


High Blood Pressure Headaches? What are they and do they occur?

Well if headache occurs along with hypertension (elevated blood pressure or BP), and there is no other explanation for the headache, then you can consider that as high blood pressure induced headache. But this notion is not founded on any scientific basis rather it was based on assumptions. The general notion is that hypertension is a causative factor for headache.

But scientific studies actually show otherwise; two epidemiological studies called as HUNT 1 & HUNT 2 conducted in Norway concluded the following;

As the systolic pressure increased, contrary to the popular belief, the headache frequency actually came down. Increase in the pulse pressure was also associated with decreasing frequency of headache. Both migraine & non-migraine type headache frequency came down as the systolic and pulse pressure increased.

How does high blood pressure help with the headache?

Although the exact mechanism is not fully clear but it is thought to be related with a complex physiological mechanism involving what is called as baroreflex arch. As blood pressure elevates it stimulates baroreflex arch which in turn suppresses the transmission of pain impulse at various levels in the central nervous system (brain & spinal cord) and reduces the development of headaches.

Why is this knowledge important?

First of all this refutes the popular notion that high blood pressure is an important cause for headache.

Then this knowledge will also have an impact on clinician’ approach towards hypertensive patients who complain of headache. Instead of automatically coupling these headaches with the high blood pressure, further exploration will be done with a thorough clinical history and examination followed by proper investigations as necessary.


Neurology. 2008 Apr 15;70(16):1329-36. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/18413586

High Blood Pressure Headaches to Neurology Articles


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