Although more research is necessary on this topic, having migraine may increase a person’s risk of developing hypertension.
This article explores the possible connection between migraine and hypertension.
It looks at whether migraine can cause high blood pressure, what it may feel like if blood pressure rises during a migraine episode, and how that compares to a hypertension migraine. Finally, it explores diagnosis, possible treatments, and when to contact a doctor for migraine.
Several studies have found a connection between the two conditions, but researchers need to further explore the possible links.
What the research says
The researchers have several hypotheses for why migraine may cause high blood pressure:
- A person may have the genes that cause both conditions.
- Factors in the body that cause migraine may also trigger high blood pressure.
- Enzymes in the body that regulate blood pressure may also play a role in causing migraine.
- Repetitive pain from migraine may lead to high blood pressure.
In a 2021 study looking at the link between high blood pressure and migraine, the authors concluded that people with migraine had a higher risk of developing high blood pressure. They also clarified that more research is necessary to determine the exact link between the two conditions.
Another study from 2021 looked at whether women with a history of migraine were at a higher risk for high blood pressure after menopause. The researchers found that women in menopause who had migraine were more likely to have high blood pressure.
What happens to blood pressure during a migraine?
It is common knowledge among doctors that a person’s blood pressure
However, people who experience migraine often
According to the
A migraine headache
High blood pressure typically has no symptoms. However, if a person experiences a hypertensive crisis — a blood pressure of
This condition is a medical emergency that requires swift treatment to rapidly lower the blood pressure.
Hypertensive crisis most commonly occurs in people who have a history of hypertension and do not take their medications as their doctor prescribes. This can cause their blood pressure to rise to a dangerous level.
Doctors can use various tests and tools to diagnose migraine and high blood pressure.
To diagnose migraine, a doctor will ask a person questions about the
- their medical and family history
- any medications they take for conditions other than headaches
- their allergies
- any mental health conditions they have
- any sleep difficulties they have
- their smoking status
- their levels of alcohol and caffeine consumption
- possible triggers, such as anything that may have happened on the day of a migraine episode
- pain characteristics, such as timing, frequency, and severity
- use of medications
Testing blood pressure at different intervals
To diagnose high blood pressure, a doctor will check a person’s blood pressure at several different times. They may ask the person to sit, stand, or lie down during the test.
The doctor may also ask the person to come in at different times to check their blood pressure when they have not had caffeine or exercised within the last 30 minutes.
Once the doctor confirms the diagnosis, they may order tests to determine the cause of the high blood pressure.
Prescription medications that doctors may prescribe for migraine
Several over-the-counter medications may also help a person manage mild migraine headaches, including:
The doctor may also order prescription medications such as
- angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors or angiotensin II receptor blockers to keep blood vessels from narrowing
- calcium channel blockers to prevent calcium from entering the muscle cells of heart and blood vessels
- diuretics to remove extra water and sodium from the body, thereby reducing the amount of fluid in the blood
- beta blockers to slow down the heart rate and therefore reduce the amount of blood traveling through the blood vessels
Both conditions may benefit from changes in diet, exercise, and activity levels, if these changes are applicable to the individual.
A person may want to try lifestyle changes
- establishing a regular sleep and wake schedule
- eating a balanced diet and not skipping meals
- limiting caffeine and alcohol intake
- getting regular exercise
- finding healthy ways to reduce stress
Treating high blood pressure can also involve several lifestyle changes, some of which overlap with the treatment for migraine:
- reducing salt intake
- eating a balanced diet
- staying active
- cutting down on alcohol
- making efforts to maintain a moderate weight
- drinking less caffeine
- stopping smoking
If a person is experiencing persistent high blood pressure or recurrent migraine episodes, it is a good idea to seek a medical evaluation to avoid any potential complications.
A person should seek emergency medical attention if they have a sudden and severe increase in blood pressure during a migraine headache.
Anecdotally, a person may need emergency medical attention if they experience:
- a migraine episode after a head injury
- a migraine episode lasting longer than 72 hours
- a sudden, severe headache that feels like “the worst headache of their life”
- changes in vision or mental status
- weakness or numbness during a migraine episode
- a migraine episode along with a seizure
- a migraine episode along with a fever or stiff neck
Learn more about when a person should go to hospital for migraine.
While doctors do not know the exact link, research suggests there may be a connection between high blood pressure and migraine. With further research, doctors may begin to understand the link between the two conditions, and more targeted approaches may become available.
A person who has both migraine and high blood pressure should work closely with a healthcare professional to determine the best medications and lifestyle strategies to manage their conditions.
Headache and migraine resources
To discover more evidence-based information and resources for headaches and migraine, visit our dedicated hub.