High Blood Pressure and Migraine: What to Know

Medically Reviewed By Angelica Balingit, MD

High blood pressure and migraine often occur together. Research suggests migraine may trigger high blood pressure. However, more studies are needed to confirm the link between the two conditions. Studies suggest high blood pressure and migraine have a link, as the two conditions frequently occur together. However, researchers are unsure exactly how blood pressure and migraine are connected and whether one may cause the other.

Read on to learn more about the link between high blood pressure and migraine, including possible causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Someone uses a digital blood pressure monitor and an arm cuff.
Juan Moyano/Stocksy United

Researchers do not fully understand the link between high blood pressure and migraine. Studies have reported contrasting findings.

Previous theories Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source suggested high blood pressure may contribute to migraine frequency and severity.

Recent studies have also suggested that headaches and high blood pressure often occur Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source together.

However, this isn’t enough to prove that high blood pressure causes migraine. Evidence also suggests that high blood pressure and migraine may sometimes occur together as a coincidence.

More research is needed to fully understand the relationship between high blood pressure and migraine.

Does high blood pressure cause migraine?

There is mixed evidence on whether high blood pressure causes headaches and migraine.

Some studies Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source haven’t found a link between migraine and high blood pressure.

On the other hand, some migraine treatments work by affecting blood vessel function, further supporting the idea of a connection between the two conditions. Also, some researchers believe that migraine develops due to a mix of factors related to blood vessel and nervous system function.

Still, the changes linked to blood pressure may not be enough to cause migraine alone. Instead, high blood pressure may be one possible contributing factor that works alongside many others.

The American Heart Association Trusted Source American Heart Association Highly respected national organization Go to source states that high blood pressure does not typically cause migraine or headaches unless its levels are dangerously high. This is known as a hypertensive headache.

Does migraine cause high blood pressure?

Migraine can cause severe pain, which may increase Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source your blood pressure.

A 2021 study Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source investigated the relationship between high blood pressure and migraine. The results suggested that people with migraine had a higher risk of developing high blood pressure.

However, the researchers agreed that more studies are needed to understand the exact link between the conditions.

Learn more about migraine, including its causes, symptoms, and treatment.

Hypertensive headaches

When blood pressure spikes to extremely high levels it can cause Trusted Source American Heart Association Highly respected national organization Go to source headaches known as hypertensive headaches. Hypertensive headaches tend to be extremely severe and do not improve with traditional headache treatments, such as over-the-counter pain relief medications.

Hypertensive headaches usually occur if your blood pressure is 180/120 millimeters of mercury or higher. This is a medical emergency.

Other hypertensive crisis symptoms include Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source :

Call 911 or local emergency services if you have symptoms of hypertensive crisis.

High blood pressure and migraine symptoms

High blood pressure usually does not cause noticeable symptoms Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source . You may have high blood pressure without knowing.

So having migraine that leads to high blood pressure may not feel any different from having a migraine without high blood pressure.

Migraine symptoms can vary Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source per person and migraine type. Common symptoms include:

  • nausea
  • neck pain
  • light sensitivity
  • sound sensitivity
  • dizziness
  • brain fog
  • shifts in mood
  • phantosmia, smelling odors that are not really there

Read more about symptoms of migraine with aura and migraine without aura.

Treating high blood pressure and migraine together

Doctors may recommend a combination of medical treatments to treat high blood pressure that occurs alongside migraine.

Some medications traditionally used to lower high blood pressure may also help prevent migraine, such as:

  • candesartan (Atacand), an angiotensin receptor blocker, which helps keep the blood vessels from narrowing
  • beta-blockers, which help the heart beat less forcefully, and include:
    • atenolol (Tenormin)
    • bisoprolol (Zebeta)
    • metoprolol (Lopressor, Toprol)
    • nadolol (Corgard)
    • propranolol (Hemangeol, Inderal, InnoPran)

High blood pressure treatment

Apart from candesartan and beta-blockers, other high blood pressure medications include:

  • diuretics or “water pills,” which remove excess water and sodium from the body
  • calcium channel blockers, which help the blood vessels relax
  • angiotensin-converting enzyme inhibitors, which prevent the blood vessels from narrowing
  • angiotensin II receptor blockers, which also help stop the blood vessels from narrowing

Read more about medications for high blood pressure.

Migraine treatment

Treatments for migraine can help prevent new episodes or relieve pain once an episode has started.

Migraine treatments can include Trusted Source PubMed Central Highly respected database from the National Institutes of Health Go to source :

  • anti-nausea medications
  • nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs, such as ibuprofen (Advil, Motrin) or aspirin (Ascriptin, Bayer) — including over-the-counter and prescription options
  • botox injections
  • antiseizure medications
  • nerve stimulation
  • medications called:
    • triptans
    • ergotamines
    • calcitonin gene-related peptide antagonists

Your medical team may also recommend keeping a symptom diary to help you identify and avoid your triggers.

Read more about migraine treatment options and medications to prevent migraine.

Self-care approaches for migraine and high blood pressure

Self-care is an essential part of treating high blood pressure and migraine.

Methods for managing high blood pressure and migraine include:

  • eating a balanced diet as recommended by a doctor or registered dietitian
  • following a DASH diet for high blood pressure
  • staying hydrated
  • avoiding skipping meals
  • keeping a symptom and activity diary to help you identify and avoid migraine triggers
  • limiting alcohol and caffeine consumption
  • avoiding smoking
  • managing stress, such as with meditation, counseling, or psychotherapy
  • getting enough good quality sleep
  • getting regular physical activity, including:
    • around 150 minutes Trusted Source Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) Governmental authority Go to source of moderate aerobic activity each week
    • two sessions of muscle-strengthening activities for each major muscle group each week

Approaches such as placing a cool compress on the head and resting as much as possible may also help during a migraine episode.

Read more about remedies for high blood pressure and ways to relieve migraine at home.

Summary

Previously, some researchers suggested that blood pressure changes may trigger migraine. However, further studies suggest this may not be true. 

However, migraine episodes can increase the risk of high blood pressure. Migraine and high blood pressure also commonly occur together. 

More research is needed to understand how these conditions connect fully. 

Talk with a doctor if you have questions about migraine and high blood pressure, including their causes and effects.

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Medical Reviewer: Angelica Balingit, MD
Last Review Date: 2024 May 10
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