Headache … or heart attack? Evidence suggests that some people with heart disease may get head pain instead of the typical chest pain when they have an attack during exercise.
Like chest pains, cardiac headaches begin during exercise and subside when exercise stops, says Richard Lipton, MD, professor of neurology at Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx.
Most exercise-related headaches are harmless, but see a doctor if:
- the pain is severe;
- you normally don’t get headaches;
- you smoke;
- you’re over 50;
- you have any risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes or a family history of heart disease.
If your doctor rules out neurological causes for the headache, ask about an exercise stress test to determine if it’s a cardiac headache. If it is, treating the heart disease will stop the headaches.