Headaches could be early signs of stroke, hypertension
By Dr Oladapo Ashiru
There is a direct link between headaches, high blood pressure and stroke . If you have poorly controlled high blood pressure and you are experiencing constant headache , there is a high chance that you are well on your way to having a stroke .
Of course , not all headaches are due to high blood pressure , but it is a common symptom of elevated blood pressure . Headache is also a common feature of several other maladies including tension , migraine , eye strain , dehydration , low blood sugar and sinusitis.
Headaches caused by life- threatening conditions, such as meningitis (which is a bacterial infection of the brain covering ) , encephalitis (an infection of the brain tissues ), cerebral aneurysms ( abnormal dilatation of the blood vessels in the brain ), extremely high blood pressure and brain tumours , are rare . But , they can also be due to traumatic brain injury .
Furthermore, many women get headaches during or just before their monthly cycle. Pain in the neck or upper back pains may also be considered as headaches.
When you have high blood pressure that is not treated properly , you may have headaches in the mornings , blurred vision and sometimes , depression . What makes high blood pressure dangerous is that it may lead to a stroke , which islife – threatening . It may also result in death or severe physical and /or mental deficit . Only very few , lucky, physically fit and otherwise healthy individuals make a full recovery after a stroke .
What is hypertension ?
Hypertension is a medical diagnosis that depicts persistently elevated blood pressure . It is commonly referred to as high blood pressure by the generality of people. Hypertension occurs when blood is forced through the arteries at an increased pressure . The arteries are the vessels that carry blood from the heart to all other tissues and organs of the body .
If you have high blood pressure , it does not necessarily follow that you are under excessive emotional tension , although emotional tension and stress can temporarily increase your blood pressure .
In fact , some people may lead totally stress – free and laid back lives and still have high blood pressure because they have familial hypertension , which means the tendency to have hypertension is a family /genetic trait .
Generally , the higher the blood pressure , the greater the risk of damage to several organs of the body , including the heart , the kidney , the arteries , the eyes and the brain .
Untreated hypertension affects all organ systems and can shorten life by up to 10 to 20 years . High blood pressure increases the risk of developing heart disease , kidney disease , hardening of the arteries or arteriosclerosis, eye damage and stroke , which is brain damage.
By the time your blood pressure is persistently above 140 /90 mmHg , you are considered to be hypertensive . The increase in diastolic pressure , which is the bottom part of the reading , is more important in defining someone as hypertensive . However , patients with diabetes mellitus or kidney disease with blood pressure as high as 130 / 80 mmHg should be considered in danger and will need urgent management .
Proper diagnosis of high blood pressure is important so that you can get the needed treatment to normalise the blood pressure and avoid associated complications . For older people over 50 years old , the systolic readings ( upper readings ) , are more important.
Systolic hypertension represents a greater risk for people over 50 years . Unless you get your blood pressure measured , you may never know you have hypertension as there are often no symptoms , except for that nagging headache .
Even the headache may be absent in some cases. This is why hypertension is nicknamed the ‘ silent killer’ . Remember your friend who looked hale and hearty at a party you both attended but died of a stroke a few days later ?
What is a stroke ?
A stroke results from sudden reduction of blood flow to a portion of the brain . There are two main types of stroke : Ischemic stroke ( also known as thrombotic stroke ), which is caused by a blood clot in the blood vessels of the brain ; andhemorrhagic stroke , which is caused by bleeding into the brain .
A stroke of any type is an extreme medical emergency and prompt treatment is imperative if the patient is to survive . Although hemorrhagic strokes account for 15 per cent of all strokes , patients suffering from this type of stroke are more likely to die . Sometimes it is difficult for non -medical people to recognise that somebody is having a stroke , but immediate help is essential.
A person suffering from stroke must get help no longer than three hours after the stroke for his / her life to be saved and for a better chance at complete recovery. So , it is important for family and friends to know the signs of a stroke by doing the following simple tests :
Ask the person you suspect is having a stroke to smile.
Ask him to talk. He must say a simple sentence coherently .
Ask him to raise both arms .
Ask him to stick out his tongue. The tongue should not be twisted.
If he is having trouble doing any of these simple things , then he is having a stroke .
How to avoid having a stroke
If you have persistent headaches, you need to visit your doctor , especially if you are over 40 years of age . Once you are diagnosed as having high blood pressure and you are placed on medications , you must continue taking the medication for as long as your doctor advises .
High blood pressure is not a problem ; the problem is usually the bad management or careless use of medication . Try to take your medication regularly as prescribed by your doctor . A stroke will usually occur in hypertensive people who forget to take their medication for a very long time and then get into a stressful situation.
Regular exercise can help to lower your blood pressure while a good diet with low salt , low carbohydrate and moderate protein without red meat is also beneficial .
Do not self – medicate with over the counter drugs to treat your headaches without first checking with your doctor , to rule out more serious illnesses . If you are over 50 years , ask your doctor if it is alright for you to take one tablet of baby aspirin daily to avoid blood clots . Note that such medications are best taken with a meal .
Check your blood pressure regularly , even if you generally feel fine .
Finally , don ’ t take life so seriously. You may not get out alive .
Source: The Punch