DANGEROUS TYPES OF HEADACHES
Updated: Sep 5, 2019
“You give me things too,” he said in a hushed voice.
“A headache,” his smile widened.”
- Leah Spiegel, Foolish Games
Many people have headaches but either ignore it, accept it or don't talk about it! This maybe the reason why hypertension is known as "the silent killer."
High blood pressure is not just a term coined to blatantly describe how stressed you feel. It is an explanation that describes a condition when the force of blood hitting the wall of your arteries is dangerously high! This force... if left unchecked... could eventually damage your eyes, brain, heart, or kidneys.
According to the National Heart Lung and Blood Institute, in every "gathering of three adults" in the United States, one will suffer from a condition that may lead to a Heart attack or Stroke (1).
So the next time you get a pounding headache and say, “My head hurts because I haven’t slept enough”... think this through. I hope this blog jolts your spine and makes you grab the nearest blood pressure cuff to get a proper reading. You should always have one handy anyway-- if you suffer from pounding headaches often. CVS has some good ones that are clinical-grade, automated technology and easy-to-use and for the non-medical savvy individual. This action could save your life!
Bottom line is if you already have high blood pressure and get a severe, pounding headache that comes on suddenly-- you should be concerned.
Why do I Need a Blood Pressure Cuff at Home?
A Blood pressure reading and heart rate level forms the basis of some of the most critical medical decisions. In a nutshell, it saves lives! All this can be done with a cheap, home bound automated blood pressure machine. For those of you at home this will provide important feedback on whether to take an over the counter antipyretic aid like Tylenol or pick up the phone and calling 911.
If realizing that one in three Americans will suffer a heart attack or stroke doesn’t have you running to the nearest drug store or pharmacy for a new blood pressure cuff then let me paint better picture for you!
If you get a severe headache and you either have a history of high cholesterol; a family member who had a stroke before their 60th birthday, feel super stressed often, have the conditions-- diabetes, coronary heart syndrome, kidney failure, smoke, drink alcohol, eat tons of ice-cream and saturated animal fats and your blood pressure reading is high (Normal blood pressure is less than 120 over 80), then that “nap” you think you need maybe the one you never wake up from.
The result of uncontrolled high blood pressure and a severe headache can result in a brain aneurysm (a bulge in the blood vessel in the brain), stroke, heart attack or simply put- death!
Of those who survive a brain aneurysm, about 66% suffer some permanent neurological deficit (2).
What should I do if I have a Severe Headache?
If you had a severe headache, you would naturally reach for your automatic home blood pressure cuff (because you read this article and bought one the same day!). Take your blood pressure reading in less than 2 Minutes! Within 3 minutes you would know the next best course of action whether you need to:
Take a recovery nap.
Take an over-the-counter antipyretic like Tylenol or aspirin.
Retire your computer for the strain in your eyes (Gamers & Engineers listen!)
Get an Eye Doc to evaluate your eye function.
Place an ice pack on your head or, an
Urgent but timely life saving visit to the E.R.
What is a Dangerous Blood Pressure reading?
When you have a pounding headache and a systolic blood pressure above 170 mmHg and a diastolic above 90 mmHg (as in 170/100 or higher), this usually doesn't spell out a good sign. It isn't the time to be brave either. You should phone your doctor immediately or run to the E.R for some intravenous anti-hypertensive drugs.
General idea of Blood Pressure Readings are:
Good B.P reading = ~120/80 mmHg or lower (provided you have no symptoms).
High B.P = ~140/90 mmHg or higher (time to inform your Primary doctor).
“Hey Houston, we have an Emergency!” =170/100 or higher (URGENT Emergency Room visit warranted!)
It's important to note that situation and environmental stressors can lead to temporary fluctuations in the blood pressure reading. Please let your M.D or Clinician guide you on what to do for optimal health outcomes.
What types of headaches are “Dangerous headaches?”
Headaches that first develop after the age of 50(3)
Sudden, Explosive, Violent headache
Headache with Nausea
“Worst ever headache!”
Headache after a head injury
Headache with vision changes
Headaches that steadily get worse
Develops after activities –weightlifting, jogging, or sex
Fever, stiff neck, vomiting with your headache
Headache that gets worse with no known cause
A headache that comes on suddenly, after you wake up
Headaches that are accompanied by changes in mental function
A new or suspicious headache
And last but far from the least, a headache with either slurred speech, change in vision, sudden confusion, loss of balance, problem moving an arm or a leg is a very serious emergency for you, your colleague, friend or neighbor. Time is brain so you must act fast to prevent further loss that impedes the proper functioning of brain cells! Look at your watch (the hospitalist will ask you the time of discovery!) and call 911.
Western Medicine: Recommended
Seek a Doctor immediately. Have someone drive you to the E.R. or call an ambulance if you are alone!
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