No one is 100% certain why headaches occur, but did you know that you can stop the pain before it even starts by avoiding certain headache triggers? Statistically speaking, you (like me) are probably no stranger to headaches. It's estimated that 78% of people experience headaches, while roughly 30 million Americans suffer from migraines. Plus, lucky for us girls, women are three times more likely to get headaches than men are! Yay! So help avoid headaches all together by staying away from these 7 main headache triggers!
Believe it or not, 75% of Americans do not drink enough water! So it's no wonder why I've written about the importance of drinking water in a few of my articles already so far. Dehydration is actually one of the most common headache triggers, even in children. Headaches caused by dehydration usually occur in the front or back of the head, or may be one-sided. Ensuring that your body gets enough fluids is the best way to avoid a dehydration headache and to stay healthy! For mild dehydration, try to drink 16 to 32 ounces of water slowly. You should feel better within an hour or two. If you have not been able to eat, replace the water with fluid containing electrolytes, such as a sports drink or a re-hydration beverage.
2. Skipped Meals
Of all the headache triggers, this is the one that affects me the most on days when I'm so busy that I realize I haven't eaten! When you skip a meal, your body's blood-sugar levels plummet. This leads to unbalanced hormones signaling for your brain to emit waves which cause headaches. If you don't have time to make three big meals a day, then try eating six smaller meals every two to three hours. The key is to eat before you start feeling hunger pangs. Also make sure not to grab something high in sugar like a muffin or soda as this will increase your blood-sugar levels and cause the same headache trigger as skipping a meal. Try to keep a snack in your purse to bring with you so you can eat if you feel a headache coming on.
Some people see caffeine as a headache cure rather then a headache trigger. But for some people, caffeine can be the reason you have a headache in the first place! While a small amount of caffeine can often work with pain-relievers to soothe headaches, drinking too many cups of coffee will actually cause headaches instead. Try to limit your caffeine intake to 200mg a day which is roughly two cups of coffee. Also keep in mind that you can get caffeine from chocolate and protein bars!
Staring at a screen for too long can be bad news for your brain's blood vessels. Most gadgets emit glare that will stimulate a headache when looked at for too long. Even more, slouching at a computer can cause headache-inducing muscle tension. So how do we fix this headache trigger when we live in a world that bombards us with technology? Getting a screen protector is a cheap and easy way to cut glare. You should also practice better posture when sitting at a computer for longer periods of time. Make sure to give your eyes a break every hour or so. Simply take a walk around your office for a minute or a long lunch to give yourself a break.
This headache trigger is so simple to realize but goes unnoticed sometimes. Tight ponytails, headbands, and tight braids, can all strain the tissues in your scalp. This in turn can cause the kind of muscle and nerve tension that causes headaches. If you have to wear your hair pulled back, opt for a chic messy bun or a less stressful low ponytail. If you start to get a headache, then you know you've pulled your hair back too tight and will immediately feel better once you let your hair down.
6. Flowers and Perfume
Strong odors, even pleasant ones, can be a trigger in over 40% of migraine-prone people. Certain smells can inflame blood vessels in the nasal passages and activate nerves that will inevitably end up giving you a headache. If you suspect that odors are headache triggers, try going fragrance-free for a few weeks. This includes changing your perfume, hair spray, deodorant, soap, and laundry detergent to non-scented. Then, reintroduce one fragrance at a time to see if only one certain scent sets off your headache.
Many foods, especially those high in protein, contain a natural chemical called tyramine that initially causes no problem. However, over time the levels of tyramine will increase which will cause your brain's blood vessels to swell. Because of this, a culprit of high levels of tyramine are many types of aged cheeses. If you think food is hurting your head, keep away from aged cheeses like blue cheese and brie, and opt for fresher types like cottage or cream cheese. Warmer temps also increase tyramine growth so don't leave protein-packed leftovers lying around.
Be sure to talk to your doctor if you have frequent headaches or migraines as they may be able to better assess why you're having them. If you are having a headache, try to take a pain reliever, drink plenty of water, and relax in order to make the pain end sooner. Although it is hard, try to keep stress at bay if that is what triggers your headaches as well. What causes you to have headaches and what do you do in order to stop the pain when you do have them?