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How Lifestyle Changes Can Prevent Your Headaches

Apr 1, 2008
First of all, lets discuss the most common causes of headaches: stress, lack of sleep and hormone changes. Making lifestyle changes can go a long way in headache prevention.

SLEEP: Many studies have proven that the brain responds best to regular biorythyms. What's that? The natural sleep cycle we should all have of 7-8 hours of sleep per night. To prevent headaches, go to bed and get up the same time every day. Even the weekends! No over sleeping, keep work out of the bedroom and TV's too. Give this at least six months to re-establish the brains' natural cycle. If you tend to wake up several times during the night, you are just like so many other headache sufferers.

I recommend a low dose (5-10mg) of Elavil an hour before bed. This gets you into a deeper sleep and helps the brain "settle down" so to speak. Ask you doctor, he or she will discuss it with you. Headache patients have irritated brains! Irregular sleep only irritates them more and then the cycle of bad sleep and pain goes around and around.


REDUCE YOUR STRESS: I know, easier said than done. But you really have to do this one to avoid headaches. Headaches are our bodies way of trying to remove us from chronic stress. In other words, if you don't slow down, your brain will do something to make you slow down. Like give you a headache that puts you in bed!Get away from the stressor. Take a class on coping skills. If you are having trouble with coping, find a counselor, minister or someone to talk to about your problems. This goes a long way in reducing stress. It always amazes me that when I ask a headache patient "What do you do for fun or to reduce stress?". . I get a blank stare. Are you that person?

EFFECTS OF DEPRESSION :The effects of depression cannot be underestimated. The nerve tracts in the brain that register pain are close at one point to the mood fibers. In addition, with migraine, 4 of the nerve receptors are for pain, and the other two, which are similar are for anxiety! When one group fires off, so do the others. . basically you can't help the way you feel.

EXERCISE: One of the best ways to prevent headaches is to exercise at least three times per week. Now this means sweat! Not just a stroll around the block and call that exercise. A lifestyle change of regular aerobic exercise will raise serotonin levels in the brain, thereby reducing headaches. There has been some news in research lately about obesity in connection with migraine. Although being overweight is not associated with more migraines, gaining weight is associated with an increase in headaches.

DON'T SKIP MEALS:especially breakfast! Headache patients tend to have "irritated" brains and one thing that definitely pushes the brain over the edge is low blood sugar. Skipping breakfast puts you at risk for a headache later on that day. The same applies for hydration. Drink plenty of water, not caffeine which dehydrates you. One of the first things I do for a severe headache is hydrate the patient. Sometimes this alone will stop a migraine.

STOP SMOKING: I know, I know, you have heard this before if you are a smoker. But I bet you didn't know that nicotine binds to nerve cells and thereby makes headaches worse! If you cut your smoking at least in half, you can reduce your headaches.

CAFFEINE: Another item that irritates nerve cells! And keeps you awake and oh there we go. . we are back to the sleep cycle thing. See how you can make a difference? Less caffeine, less headaches. If you have severe headaches, then you should not have more than one caffeinated drink per day. And Red Bulls DO count. They are off the list. . period.

FOOD TRIGGERS: know which ones trigger your headaches. The more common ones are wines, prepared cheeses and MSG. In other words, be proactive! Participate in your own care as supplements and drugs alone just might not do the job.

I can only tell you that the patients who pay attention to this advice do much better than those who do not. Lifestyle changes for your migraines really can be effective.
About the Author
Mary K. Betz, MS RPA-C is a practicing Physician Assistant. For more information on headaches and treatment visit www.Headache-adviser.com and for lifestyle and headache visit lifestyle changes for headaches.
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