For those who suffer from migraines – those intense, pounding, nauseating headaches — the unpredictability of your next episode can be one of the most frustrating and debilitating elements of the condition.
Luckily, research shows that, for women especially, understanding your migraine triggers, can help you learn to manage and, in some cases, prevent them.
According to leading neurologists the top five most common migraine triggers are:
- Sleep – too little, or too much: Regular sleep patterns are key to preventing migraines. Contrary to public thought, migraines can be triggered by too much sleep as well as too little. Instead of trying to “catch up” during marathon weekend napping sessions, try to stay on a regular sleep schedule that allows time for adequate sleep, every night of the week.
- Food – not enough, or the wrong kinds: Skipping breakfast or lunch could be inviting a migraine later in the day. Keeping to a regular meal pattern can help you avoid bringing on a dreaded mid-morning headache. Certain foods containing tyramines have been shown to trigger migraines, including red wine, aged cheeses, cured meats and a host of others. If you suspect other types of foods may be triggering your migraine, keeping a food log to bring to your next physician appointment; it can help you narrow down the culprits.
- Weather pattern changes: Not much you can do about the barometric pressure rising or falling, but know that weather patterns can trigger a migraine. A storm front moving in or a windy spring day can lead to a migraine. Airplane travel, with its changing pressures, can also be a trigger. Pay attention to these changes so you can take a proactive approach in preparing your medicine cabinet.
- Hormonal fluctuations: Did you know that fluctuating estrogen levels during your menstrual cycle can trigger migraines? Some women find their migraines aggravated during perimenopause, when hormone levels are changing erratically. (Good news is that post-menopausal women may find their migraines lessening!)
- Stress: Any kind of emotional stress – school, work, family, life events – can set off migraines. Although easier said than done, doctors recommend adopting good stress-reduction habits, such as regular exercise, to help you cope with a hectic life and avoid chronic pain and stress.
Attending to these triggers may help you avoid frequent migraines, but they are not fool proof guarantees you won’t experience one. Many people who suffer regular migraines need to work with their primary care doctors to get the relief they need. If you have been suffering from chronic migraines, schedule an appointment with your primary care physician. If referral to a specialist is necessary, they can put you in touch with a neurologist or pain management specialist who treats migraines.
If you live in Hampton Roads, Bon Secours Hampton Roads can help put you in touch with a physician to help you get your migraines under control – call our physician referral line directly at 757.889.2273.
Remember, with good care, you can spend much more of your time headache free.