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HEADACHE - TRIGGERS
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1. Headache Trigger: Your Boss

Yes, your boss really can give you a headache. Anything that boosts your stress level can make you more vulnerable to tension headaches or migraines. Tension headaches are thought to be caused by a heightened sensitivity of nerve pathways in the brain that relay pain. Migraines come from changes within the brain itself. During a migraine, brain signals trigger the release of chemicals that alter blood vessel dilation. These signals also activate inflammation in the brain, which can lead to a migraine headache.

2. Headache Trigger: Warm Weather

When the temperature climbs, so does the likelihood of developing a migraine or other severe headache. In one recent study, researchers found a 7.5% increase in headache risk for every 9 degrees Fahrenheit. Low barometric pressure, which often precedes rain, was linked to a small bump in non-migraine headaches.

3. Headache Trigger: Strong Scents

Strong smells -- even nice ones -- trigger migraines in many people. Why this happens is unclear, but the odors may stimulate the nervous system. The most common culprits are paint, dust, perfume, and certain types of flowers.

4. Headache Trigger: Hair Accessories

How you wear your hair can take a toll on your head. A tight ponytail may strain the connective tissue in the scalp, leading to a hairdo headache. Headbands, braids, and tight-fitting hats can create the same effect. If this is the cause of your headache, letting your hair down usually brings fast relief.

5. Headache Trigger: Exercise

Strenuous exercise, including sex, can lead to exertion headaches. Physical exertion causes blood vessels in the head, neck, and scalp to swell, producing a build-up in pressure. Examples include jogger’s headache and sex headache. These types of headaches are most common in people who are susceptible to migraines.

6. Headache Trigger: Poor Posture

You don’t have to work up a sweat to build pressure in the head and neck muscles. Slouching at your desk will do the job, too. Common forms of poor posture include hunching your shoulders, using a chair with no lower-back support, staring at a monitor that is too low or too high, and cradling a phone between your ear and shoulder. If you have frequent tension headaches, take a good look at your workspace.

7. Headache Trigger: Cheese

One of the most common migraine triggers is aged cheese, including blue cheese, brie, cheddar, feta, mozzarella, parmesan, and Swiss. The culprit is a substance called tyramine, which forms when certain types of protein break down. The longer a food ages, the more tyramine it contains.

8. Headache Trigger: Red Wine

Tyramine is also found in red wine and some liquors. Because alcohol increases blood flow to the brain, the effects may be even more intense.

9. Headache Trigger: Cold Cuts

Processed meats, such as cold cuts, have two strikes against them. They often contain tyramine, as well as food additives called nitrates or nitrites. These additives appear to increase blood flow to the brain in some people. Headaches caused by food additives are usually felt on both sides of the head (in contrast to a classic migraine, which strikes one side at a time.)

10. Headache Trigger: Skipping Meals

Hunger headaches aren’t always obvious. If you skip a meal, your head could start to ache before you realize you’re hungry. The trouble is a dip in blood sugar. But don’t try to cure a hunger headache with a candy bar. Sweets cause blood sugar to spike and then drop even lower.

11. Headache Trigger: Smoking

Smoking is known to trigger headaches -- and not just in the person holding the cigarette. Secondhand smoke contains nicotine, which causes blood vessels in the brain to narrow. Giving up cigarettes or reducing exposure to secondhand smoke appears especially helpful to patients with cluster headaches. These are extremely painful one-sided headaches that occur in groups.

12. Headache Trigger: Caffeine

For the headache-prone, caffeine fits firmly into the category of “can’t live with it, can’t live without it.” In moderation, caffeine is often beneficial -- in fact, it’s found in many headache medications. But chain-chugging coffee can be a cause of headaches. And, if you’re hooked on caffeine, cutting back abruptly may only make things worse. Caffeine withdrawal is another headache trigger.

13. Headache Solution: Identify Triggers

If you can identify your most common triggers, you may be able to cut off headaches before they start. The best way to accomplish this is through a headache diary Keep a daily log of foods you eat, stressful events, weather changes, and physical activity. Whenever you have a headache, record the time it starts and stops. This will help you find patterns, so you can try to avoid your personal triggers.

14. Headache Solution: Manage Stress

Many people are able to manage migraines or tension headaches through stress-busting strategies. Although you can’t control the stressful events that come your way, you can alter your response to those events. You may need to experiment with techniques such as meditation, massage, and acupuncture to find what works for you.

15. Headache Solution: Stretch Your Legs

Moderate exercise is a powerful stress reliever. Walking is a great choice because it delivers an extra defense against tension headaches. When you walk, the swinging motion of your arms tends to relax the muscles in your neck and shoulders. Breaking up those knots diminishes the very root of tension headaches.

16. Headache Solution: Eat Regular Meals

Eating balanced meals throughout the day will help keep your blood sugar on an even keel. That means no more hunger headaches. Aim for meals and snacks that pair a protein with a complex carbohydrate, such as peanut butter on whole-grain bread or chicken breast with brown rice. And be sure to drink enough fluids -- dehydration is another common headache trigger.

17. Headache Solution: Physical Therapy

Physical therapy combines exercise and education to reduce pain and improve range of motion. In people with tension headaches, physical therapy can help strengthen the neck muscles and establish new habits that lead to better posture.

18. Headache Solution: Medication

Medicines are effective against many types of headaches. Avoid taking these drugs continuously like Nonsteroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs), such as aspirin or ibuprofen, as this can result in medication overuse headaches or rebound headaches -- headache pain that returns as soon as the analgesic pills have worn off. For frequent headaches, especially migraines, talk to your doctor about prescription medications that help prevent them.

19. When to See a Doctor

Any new headache that is unusually severe or lasts more than a couple of days should be checked by a doctor. It’s also important to let your healthcare provider know if the pattern of your headaches changes -- for example, if there are new triggers. If you have a headache accompanied by paralysis, confusion, fever, or stiff neck, seek emergency medical care.
 
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