Does High Blood Pressure Cause Headaches?

Hypertension, or high blood pressure, is a common and often “silent” killer. It affects 1 in 3 adults in the United States, and likely contributes to heart disease’s top spot on the list of the nation’s deadliest diseases.

People often assume this condition has symptoms like many others — such as high blood sugar or the flu — do. Unfortunately, this is not the case. And this can lead to serious complications later on, because not knowing you have a problem increases the chances it will negatively affect your health.

There is one way you can determine if you have high blood pressure. Here’s how to find out — and what you can do to prevent high blood pressure if you haven’t been diagnosed yet.

Why high blood pressure doesn’t have symptoms

A doctor checks a patient's blood pressure.

A doctor checks a patient’s blood pressure. | iStock.com/AndreyPopov

If you’re looking for warning signs of high blood pressure, you’ll have a hard time finding any. In the vast majority of cases, the condition has no symptoms — which is why it’s so dangerous.

According to Mayo Clinic, it’s possible to have high blood pressure for years and not know it — even if it’s causing damage to your heart and other parts of your body. The condition develops slowly over time, and symptoms such as headaches or shortness of breath are very rarely related to how high your blood pressure is.

The only way to tell if you have high blood pressure is through an exam given by a health professional. This is why regular doctors’ visits are so important.

High blood pressure, technically, can cause a headache and other side effects. But only in certain, very dangerous situations.

What is a hypertensive crisis?

A hypertensive crisis occurs when blood pressure spikes high enough to cause the blood vessels to become inflamed and severely damaged.

It can feel very similar to a heart attack in some ways — causing chest pain, shortness of breath, and other physical symptoms.

Signs of a hypertensive crisis might include:

  • Shortness of breath
  • Extreme anxiety
  • Chest pain
  • Confusion and blurred vision
  • Severe headache
  • Unconsciousness.

A hypertensive crisis can happen due to a number of factors, including a heart attack or stroke, not taking your blood pressure medication, heart or kidney failure, and more.

Seek medical attention immediately if you suspect your blood pressure has risen to dangerous levels.

Who is most likely to get high blood pressure?

Headache

A woman has a headache. | SIphotography/iStocks/Getty Images

Do you know how likely you are to develop high blood pressure? Your risk depends on a number of factors, both in and out of your control.

You are most likely to get high blood pressure if:

  • Someone in your immediate family has or has had it
  • You’re over 50
  • You don’t exercise or move much throughout the day
  • You have high cholesterol
  • You’re overweight or obese
  • Smoking and/or drinking is a daily, excessive habit
  • You don’t follow a healthy diet
  • You deal with chronic stress.

If your age or genes increase your risk of developing high blood pressure, your best bet is to do what you can to lower or eliminate other risk factors. Controlling your weight, managing your stress, and increasing your physical activity can all lower your risk significantly.