Hypertension Headache: Causes, Symptoms, and Treatment

Hypertension headache is a common symptom caused by high blood pressure, characterized by throbbing pain in the head, often accompanied by nausea and vision changes.

Hypertension is when the force of blood in the arteries is too high.1 This puts people at risk for serious health problems like heart attacks, strokes, and kidney disease. You might not even know you have it, as it often shows no symptoms.

If hypertension gets very bad, symptoms like headaches, dizziness, and vomiting can show up.1 People with high blood pressure may notice blood spots in their eyes. Headaches tend to be a sign when blood pressure hits 180/110 mmHg or more. This could mean there’s another health issue going on.

If you have high blood pressure and suddenly get a headache, see a doctor. It might be more than just a headache.

Key Takeaways

  • Mild or moderate hypertension (140 to 179/90 to 109 mmHg) does not generally cause headaches.
  • Headaches usually occur when blood pressure reaches 180/110 mmHg or more.
  • Men are more likely to develop hypertension than women up to age 64, but women become more susceptible after age 65.
  • African-Americans in the U.S. tend to develop high blood pressure more often than other races.
  • Lifestyle factors like diet, exercise, and stress management can help prevent and manage hypertension headaches.

Understanding Hypertension

What is Hypertension?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is when the blood flowing through your arteries is too strong.2 This strong pressure can hurt your blood vessels. It makes you more likely to have heart disease, a stroke, or other health problems. It’s important to know the kinds of hypertension to deal with it properly.

Types of Hypertension

There are two kinds of hypertension: primary and secondary.2 Primary hypertension is the most seen type, about 90% of cases. It usually has no clear cause. Things like getting older, your way of life, and what’s around you can play a big role.2 Secondary hypertension happens because of a medical issue like a problem with your adrenal gland. It can also be due to kidney or thyroid problems.2 Knowing which kind you have helps doctors pick the best treatment for you.

Hypertension TypeCharacteristics
Primary (Essential) Hypertension
  • Most common type, accounting for 90% of cases
  • No known underlying cause
  • Often due to aging, lifestyle, and environmental factors
Secondary Hypertension
  • Caused by an underlying medical condition
  • Conditions include adrenal tumor, kidney disease, thyroid dysfunction
  • Requires identification and treatment of the underlying cause

Knowing about both primary and secondary hypertension is key for doctors.2 They can provide better care when they understand the causes and signs. This knowledge helps in making treatments specific to someone’s needs. It’s all to help keep your blood pressure in a healthy range.

Hypertension Headache

Hypertension headaches are common with uncontrolled high blood pressure.3 They cause throbbing pain, nausea, and vision changes.3 Severe hypertension where the blood pressure hits 180/110 mmHg or more can bring on these headaches.3,1

Hypertension is when blood pressure is too high all the time.1 It can lead to headaches, vomiting, dizziness, a flushed face, and blood spots in the eyes.1 Headaches from high blood pressure often start when it’s at 180/110 mmHg or higher.1

Yet, for most people, high blood pressure doesn’t mean they’ll get headaches.4 If your hypertension is mild or moderate, you’re unlikely to have headaches.4

A headache from high blood pressure is unusual but serious. It feels like a pulsating pain on both sides of the head and can get worse with activity.3 Fast medical help is critical if you have a hypertension headache and are experiencing vision changes, numbness, nosebleeds, chest pain, or breathing problems.3

These headaches have a pulsating feel and get worse with movement.3 Even though they’re not common, urgent medical care is a must because of the dangers of high blood pressure.3

Causes of Hypertension Headaches

The cause of hypertension headaches isn’t fully known. But, it’s tied to a sudden rise in blood pressure.1 The most common type is primary hypertension. This comes from aging, lifestyle choices, and the world around us.1 When a medical issue causes it, we call it secondary hypertension. This might be due to things like adrenal tumors or kidney issues.

Primary Hypertension

Primary hypertension is the main kind of high blood pressure. But, it doesn’t have a clear cause.1 It’s linked to getting older and how we live. Things like not moving enough, eating poorly, and stress add up. Smoking and too much alcohol make it more likely.

Secondary Hypertension

Secondary hypertension happens because of certain health conditions.2 These can include adrenal tumors or problems with the kidney or thyroid. Even some medications might cause it.2 Finding and treating the main issue is key to handling both the high blood pressure and the headaches.

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Risk Factors

Many things can raise your risk for hypertension. This includes family history and how old you are. Living a too-quiet life, eating the wrong foods, and too much alcohol or smoking are also risky.1 Stress plays a big part too.1 Across cultures, men are more at risk up to age 64. But, after that, women face more danger.1 African-Americans often have high blood pressure more than people from other backgrounds.1

Hypertension Headache Causes

Causes of Hypertension HeadachesDescription
Primary HypertensionThe most common type of high blood pressure with no known specific cause. Often related to aging, lifestyle, and environmental factors.
Secondary HypertensionCaused by an underlying medical condition, such as adrenal tumors, kidney disease, or thyroid dysfunction.
Risk FactorsFamily history, age, gender, sedentary lifestyle, poor diet, excess alcohol, smoking, and chronic stress.

Symptoms of Hypertension Headaches

Intensity and Pattern

Hypertension headaches feel intense, like a throbbing or pulsating pain in the head.5 They are usually worse in the morning and get better as the day goes on.6

Associated Symptoms

Besides the headache, you might go through mood swings, feel sick, throw up, have trouble seeing, and get dizzy.5 These headaches can bother anyone, but they hit more as you grow older.

The signs of hypertension headaches are often associated with pheochromocytoma. Studies have looked into how this health issue impacts people.2 It’s been found that certain hormones in the blood and urine are key for its diagnosis and effects on the body.2

Hypertension Headache SymptomsIntensityPatternAssociated Symptoms
Throbbing, pulsating painIntenseWorse in the morning, improving throughout the dayMood swings, nausea, vomiting, visual disturbances, dizziness

Diagnosing Hypertension

Hypertension is diagnosed by checking a person’s blood pressure. It’s outlined by two readings. The first is the systolic blood pressure, which shows the force in blood vessels when the heart beats. The second is the diastolic blood pressure, which shows the pressure when the heart rests between beats.7

Blood Pressure Measurement

A pressure cuff is used to measure blood pressure. It’s wrapped around the upper arm. This cuff, called a sphygmomanometer, helps find out the blood flow force. It reads and gives the systolic and diastolic blood pressure values.7

Categories of Blood Pressure

People are put in different blood pressure categories. If your systolic blood pressure is 140 mmHg or more, or your diastolic is 90 mmHg or more, you have high blood pressure. Elevated blood pressure falls between 120/80 mmHg and 139/89 mmHg. Normal blood pressure is anything less than 120/80 mmHg.7

Blood Pressure CategorySystolic (mm Hg)Diastolic (mm Hg)
NormalLess than 120Less than 80
Hypertension140 or higher90 or higher

Hypertensive Crisis

A hypertensive crisis is a sudden, severe spike in blood pressure. It can be life-threatening.8 Doctors define it as a reading of 180/120 mm Hg or more.8 Urgent cases show no organ damage yet. Emergency cases, however, could cause life-threatening damage to organs.8

Malignant Hypertension

Malignant hypertension means a rapid blood pressure increase. It can get to 180/120 mmHg or higher.8 This fast rise harms the heart, brain, kidneys, and eyes badly.

Emergency Symptoms

If you have a hypertensive crisis, you might feel a severe headache or chest pain. Other signs can be shortness of breath, nausea, vomiting, or vision changes.8 It’s crucial to get medical help right away if you reach 180/120 mm Hg and feel chest pain, short of breath, or show signs of a stroke.8

Not taking your blood pressure meds or suddenly stopping heart medications can cause a crisis. So can medication mix-ups or an adrenal gland tumor.8 Proper care is very important, as these crises can be deadly if ignored. It’s a must.928

Experts look into the risks of a hypertensive crisis. They try to figure out what leads to this serious situation.8 Knowing the causes and signs is key for quick medical help and good care in this life-threatening moment.

Treatment for Hypertension

To treat hypertension, both lifestyle changes and medications are key.10 Lifestyle changes can significantly reduce blood pressure. These include keeping a healthy weight, exercising, and eating a low-sodium diet. It’s also important to manage stress, limit alcohol, and quit smoking.10

When lifestyle changes aren’t enough, doctors might prescribe medications to manage high blood pressure. These include several types like ACE inhibitors, diuretics, and angiotensin II antagonists. The specific drug for each person depends on their health, possible side effects, and other medications they may take.10

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Lifestyle Changes

Living healthy is a big part of treating hypertension. This means keeping a healthy weight with good food and regular exercise.10 Managing stress with activities like meditation can also improve blood pressure.10

Changing what you eat can help a lot, too. Less salt, more potassium from foods like bananas, and healthy fats help keep blood pressure in check.10


If lifestyle changes aren’t doing the trick, your doctor might add medications to your plan. These may include ACE inhibitors to relax blood vessels or diuretics to reduce fluid. The best choice of medication depends on each person’s unique situation and health.10

It’s important to check regularly with your doctor when taking these drugs. This keeps your treatment on track for the best results and safety.10

Treating Hypertension Headaches

There are many ways to deal with hypertension headaches.10 Things like celery, beets, and blueberries can help.10 They reduce swelling and boost blood flow, easing headaches.10 Eating whole grains also helps stabilize blood sugar. This in turn controls migraines that go with high blood pressure.10

Essential Oils

Peppermint and lavender essential oils have calming properties.10 They can help reduce the pain from hypertension headaches.10 Using them with other methods makes a better plan for handling these headaches.

Reducing Caffeine Intake

Drinking too much caffeine makes blood pressure rise.10 This increases headache risks.10 Cutting back on caffeine, or quitting, is a good way to avoid these headaches.

Over-the-Counter Medications

Sometimes, aspirin and similar drugs help with hypertension headaches.4 But this is if your high blood pressure is under control.4 Always talk to a doctor before taking any medication. This makes sure it won’t harm you with your blood pressure medicines.

Treatment ApproachPotential Benefits
Anti-inflammatory AgentsReduce inflammation and improve circulation
Whole GrainsBalance blood sugar levels and control migraines
Essential OilsSoothe the central nervous system and provide relief
Reducing Caffeine IntakeLower blood pressure and decrease headache frequency
Over-the-Counter MedicationsTreat headache symptoms, but only with well-managed hypertension

By using these strategies together, people can improve how they deal with hypertension headaches.104

When to Seek Medical Attention

If you’re dealing with frequent or constant headaches, see a doctor. It’s key to find out the cause.1 High blood pressure without a diagnosis could cause big problems. So, have your pressure checked often by a healthcare provider. If you know you have high blood pressure and get a very bad headache suddenly with chest pain, trouble breathing, or vision changes, this might be a crisis. You need help right away.111

Headaches are often due to blood pressure over 180/110 mmHg.1 Such a big jump in pressure is a crisis. It needs immediate medical care.11 If your blood pressure goes over 180/120 mm Hg, you might also have chest pain, trouble breathing, blurry vision, a headache, or a nosebleed. These signs all need fast attention.11

However, stage 1 or stage 2 high blood pressure usually doesn’t cause headaches.4 Many with high blood pressure don’t show any signs.4 But, a sudden, intense headache with high blood pressure is not normal. It signals you need to see a doctor.4

To stay ahead, check your blood pressure often. This helps catch and manage high blood pressure before it becomes severe.11 If you have persistent or strong headaches and your blood pressure is high, don’t delay. Seeking medical care fast is important for your health.

Preventing Hypertension Headaches

Living healthy can do a lot to stop or ease hypertension headaches.1 Eat a balanced diet full of fruits, veggies, and whole grains. This can help keep your blood pressure in check and lower inflammation, lessening headaches.10 Things like brisk walking really help too by lowering your blood pressure and making your heart stronger.1

Diet and Exercise

A diet that’s all about whole, nutrient-packed foods is great for fighting off hypertension headaches.10 Including foods that fight inflammation, like celery, beets, blueberries, and flaxseeds, is key. They help keep your body calmer. Whole grains are also excellent for keeping your blood sugar stable and reducing migraines.10 Plus, getting out for walks helps lower your blood pressure and keeps your heart in shape.1

Stress Management

Managing stress well is vital for stopping hypertension headaches.10 Techniques like meditation, yoga, and deep breathing do wonders. They calm the brain and can stop stress headaches.10 Add these tips to your daily life to lower how often and how bad these headaches are.10

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Living with Hypertension

Living with high blood pressure means keeping a close watch on it and making life changes. This includes checking it at home and noting the readings.10 You should also work on staying at a healthy weight, exercising regularly, and eating food that’s not too salty. Limiting alcohol and dealing with stress are important too.10

Monitoring Blood Pressure

Keeping track of your blood pressure is key. Use a home monitor to watch for any changes. Sharing these numbers with your doctor helps in adjusting your care plan.10

Lifestyle Modifications

Changing how you live is critical for managing high blood pressure.10 This means keeping off extra pounds, moving your body often, and choosing healthy foods.10 Also, calming your mind with activities like yoga can make a big difference.10


Hypertension headaches are a frequent issue for many with high blood pressure. They bring severe, pulsating head pain. People often feel sick, notice changes in their vision, and have other signs. Knowing the causes, risks, and how to treat these headaches is key to managing your health. 1,12

To lower the risk of these headaches, a healthy lifestyle is vital. This means eating well, staying active, and managing stress.13 Also, check your blood pressure often. And don’t wait to see a doctor if you need to. This can catch problems early and help stop headaches.

Taking charge of your health helps fight hypertension headaches. With a full health plan, you can cut down on how often they happen. This change can make a big difference in how you feel every day.


What is the relationship between hypertension and headaches?

High blood pressure can lead to headaches. This is especially true if the blood pressure is very high, like 180/110 mmHg. These headaches may signal other health issues like cancer or serious heart problems.

What are the common symptoms of a hypertension headache?

Hypertension headaches cause strong, throbbing pain in the head. You might also feel moody, sick to your stomach, see funny things, or feel dizzy.

What are the different types of hypertension?

There is primary and secondary hypertension. Primary hypertension doesn’t have a clear cause and often comes with aging or an unhealthy lifestyle. Secondary hypertension is linked with specific medical issues like kidney disease.

What are the risk factors for developing hypertension?

Family history, getting older, being a man, sitting too much, eating poorly, drinking too much, smoking, and stress can all increase your risk for hypertension.

How is hypertension diagnosed?

Doctors check for hypertension by measuring your blood pressure. They look at two numbers: systolic and diastolic. Blood pressure over 140/90 mmHg is considered high.

What is a hypertensive crisis?

A hypertensive crisis is a very sudden and dangerous spike in blood pressure. Malignant hypertension is an extreme case. It can cause a terrible headache, chest pain, trouble breathing, throwing up, and vision problems.

How is hypertension treated?

First, doctors recommend healthy habits like staying at a good weight, moving your body, eating right, and finding ways to relax. If these changes aren’t enough, they might also give you medicines.

How can hypertension headaches be managed?

To handle the headaches, it’s important to lower your blood pressure. Including anti-inflammatory foods, whole grains, and essential oils in your diet might help. So can cutting back on caffeine and using over-the-counter pain medicine.

When should someone seek medical attention for a hypertension headache?

If you know you have high blood pressure and suddenly get a really bad headache with other serious signs like chest pain, trouble breathing, or vision problems, you need to see a doctor right away.

How can hypertension headaches be prevented?

Living a healthy life is key to keeping hypertension headaches away. This means eating right, moving often, and finding ways to chill out. These steps can also help if you already have high blood pressure.

What steps can someone with hypertension take to monitor and manage their condition?

Keep an eye on your blood pressure at home with a monitor and write down your numbers. Work on staying at a healthy weight, being active, eating foods low in salt, watching how much you drink, and handling stress better. This can make a big difference in controlling your blood pressure and staying well.

Source Links

  1. https://www.emedicinehealth.com/what_is_a_hypertension_headache_caused_by/article_em.htm
  2. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3829292/
  3. https://www.healthline.com/health/headache/types-of-headaches
  4. https://health.clevelandclinic.org/high-blood-pressure-headache
  5. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/322451
  6. https://healthmatch.io/high-blood-pressure/what-is-a-hypertension-headache
  7. https://www.nhs.uk/conditions/intracranial-hypertension/
  8. https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/high-blood-pressure/expert-answers/hypertensive-crisis/faq-20058491
  9. https://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC3990398/
  10. https://www.healthline.com/health/high-blood-pressure-hypertension/headache
  11. https://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/327320
  12. https://www.excedrin.com/headaches/causes/can-high-blood-pressure-cause-headaches/
  13. https://www.nature.com/articles/s41598-021-03377-7