High blood pressure symptoms: Why headaches could be a sign of the condition

Millions of people suffer from high blood pressure, known as hypertension. It affects 12.5 million people in the UK and is the main risk factor for heart attack, heart failure and kidney disease. High blood pressure can cause blood clots to form in the arteries leading to the brain, blocking the flow of blood and possibly causing a stroke. Heart Research Institute scientists have uncovered a brain chemical which is conducive in triggering hypertension.

PACAP receptors are a novel target for preventing the progression of over-active brain activity to hypertension

Zohra Kakall, lead researcher at the Heart Research Institute

A 2018 study published in the American Journal of Physiology-Heart and Circulatory Physiology found a powerful new treatment that blocks a neurotransmitter and reduces the symptoms of hypertension.

Lead researcher at the Heart Research Institute, Zohra Kakall said: “We know people with hypertension also have elevated brain activity causing their blood vessels to constrict, and their heart rate to rise, but many effective treatments are available and more are still needed.

“Now, thanks to our research, we have a novel new target to test, a neurotransmitter called PACAP and we hope that with further development, a new drug that can block PACAP will be able to lower blood pressure.”

The Pituitary Adenylate Cyclase Activating Polypeptide (PACAP) involves the regulation of the cardiovascular system which transports oxygen, nutrients and hormones to cells throughout the body.

“Excitingly, we found that by blocking the neurotransmitter, PACAP, we were able to dampen over-active neutrons, suggesting that PACAP receptors are a novel target for preventing the progression of over-active brain activity to hypertension,” said Kakall.

Scientists believe the best early indicator of high blood pressure is excessive brain activity in the part of the brain that controls blood vessel constriction and relaxation.

Experts believe high blood pressure can cause headaches because it affects the blood-brain link.

If you are experiencing severe headaches that persist it’s strongly advised to see your doctor. The excessive pressure on the brain due to hypertension can cause blood to leak from the blood vessels.

Other early symptoms to look out for include:

  • Blood in the urine
  • Fatigue and confusion
  • Severe headaches
  • Chest pain
  • Difficulty breathing
  • Irregular heart beat
  • Vision problems
  • Pounding in your chest

  • Age – the older you get the more at risk you become
  • Family history of high blood pressure
  • Having a high-fat diet including butter or beef fat
  • Being overweight 
  • Poor stress management
  • Binge drinking

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