Can High Blood Pressure Cause Headaches?

High blood pressure typically produces no discernable symptoms, reports WebMD. However, people who experience an extremely high blood pressure event, known as hypertensive crisis, may suffer a headache along with other symptoms, according to the American Heart Association.

The American Heart Association notes that it's a common misconception that people experience nervousness, difficulty sleeping and headaches with high blood pressure. Chronic high blood pressure is sometimes undetected without testing due to other health conditions. The malignant form of extremely high blood pressure that does cause headaches and other symptoms is viewed as a medical emergency, reports WebMD. Systolic readings over 180 and diastolic readings over 110 are malignant.

In the early twentieth century, the common assumption was that people suffering from high blood pressure had headaches more frequently. However, scientific research into the connection did not support that assumption. In fact, one study found that people who have high blood pressure have headaches much less often than the population at large, notes the American Heart Association.

The journal "Neurology" published a study finding that people with higher systolic blood pressure were as much as 40 percent less likely to suffer from headaches than people with systolic readings in a healthier range. The study also analyzed the effect of pulse pressure, which is the alteration in blood pressure at heart contraction. Subtracting the diastolic reading from the systolic reading yields the pulse pressure, and those with higher pulse pressures had up to 50 percent fewer instances of headache. The researchers suggested that a higher pulse pressure yields stiffer blood vessels, which cause dysfunction in the nerve endings. Faulty nerve endings make it less likely that a person is going to notice pain, according to the American Heart Association.