Cardiac cephalalgia is a symptom of the most common type of heart disease – ischaemic heart disease – due to narrowing of the main arteries supplying heart muscle (coronary stenosis).
This is a very rare syndrome, as when I have talked to cardiologists they have sometimes been sceptical of its existence.
The cardiologists argue that they have seen hundreds of people with heart attacks, angina or rhythm disturbances yet cannot recall anyone with severe headache.
At the time of a heart attack or angina episode about 6% of people will report headache at the time of the onset of the heart problem as well as the dominant symptom of chest or arm pain (according to one survey of about 150 people).
However, there are some very convincing cases of people with narrowed coronary arteries who experienced headache during their heart attack or angina episode.
While their arteries were being treated at angioplasty headache appeared when the angioplasty balloon was inflated.
These people reported resolution of headache symptoms once the arteries were treated.
According to the largest review of 34 cases, about half of cardiac cephalalgia cases will be having a heart attack, about 40% will be having angina and about 10% of cases are experiencing a heart rhythm disturbance.
There is a list of all 41 published papers on cardiac headaches at the foot of the page.