Health and Lifestyle for the over 50s

Surprising Headache and Migraine Triggers

Posted by The Best of Health
Categories: Health and Wellbeing /


Headaches are a common health complaint, and many people suffer from them frequently. Whether you suffer from the occasional minor tension headache or severe migraines, there are a number of factors which can trigger the pain. Dehydration, colds and head injuries are common causes of headaches, but there are plenty more surprising migraine triggers you might not be aware of.

All kinds of weather conditions can trigger headaches. High temperatures, humidity, storms and high or low pressure changes are all possible causes. Unfortunately, the weather is out of our control, but if you think weather conditions may be giving you headaches, there are steps you can take to minimise the risk of symptoms. Stay well-hydrated, avoid going out in the midday sun and wear sunglasses if you do go out on a sunny day.

Strenuous exercise can sometimes lead to headaches for varying reasons. You may have thrown yourself into intense exercise too quickly, or the activity may have left you dehydrated. Exercise as a trigger is particularly common in those who suffer from migraines. To prevent exercise-related headaches, ease into it gradually and make sure you keep drinking plenty of water.

Strong Scents
Potent smells, pleasant or not, can set off migraines. Perfume, paint, cleaning products and certain types of flowers are all common triggers. While it’s not clear how strong scents trigger this type of pain, it is thought that they stir up your nervous system.

Hair Accessories
A tightly secured ponytail, braids, headbands and tight-fitting hats can all put a strain on your scalp, triggering a headache. The good news is you can usually bring fast relief from headaches caused by hair accessories by simply letting your hair down.

Poor Posture
Spending long periods in a slouched position can build up pressure in your head and neck muscles, and this pressure can result in a headache. This can often be a problem for office workers, who spend many hours sitting at a desk. If you do have to sit for long periods, try to use a chair with lower-back support and avoid hunching your shoulders. If you’re sitting in front of a computer, make sure your monitor isn’t too low or too high.

Smoking or even inhaling second-hand smoke can cause headaches, because nicotine causes the blood vessels in your brain to narrow. Smoking can also contribute to cluster headaches – a type of headache which causes severe pain in one side of the head and often around the eye. Giving up smoking is the best way to avoid these headaches, along with a number of other cigarette-related health problems.

Small amounts of caffeine can actually help to soothe headaches, but consuming too much sometimes triggers the pain. If you’re hooked on caffeine, withdrawal can also trigger headaches. The key is moderation – a little caffeine here and there is fine, but chain-chugging coffee can be problematic.

Skipping Meals
Not drinking enough water is a common cause of headache, but did you know that not eating enough can be problematic too? Skipping meals is likely to cause a dip in blood sugar levels, which can trigger a headache. Make sure you don’t counter this with sugary snacks, as they cause blood sugar levels to spike then drop even lower.

Several types of cheese are known to trigger migraines, including cheddar, Swiss, parmesan and blue cheese. It is thought that the cause may be tyramine – a substance which grows in some foods as they age.

Red Wine
Tyramine is also present in red wine, as well as flavonoids and other ingredients which may contribute to headaches. It is possible that headaches are also triggered by the way red wine changes levels of serotonin in the brain.

If you suffer from headaches frequently, it’s worth having a think about your everyday routine and altering it slightly to see if there’s a positive effect. Headaches can be triggered by all kinds of unlikely events, and yours may be the result of a habit you’d never think to associate with the pain. If there’s a change in the pattern of your headaches, such as them becoming more frequent or severe, make sure you see your doctor.

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Posted by The Best of Health

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