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Your Guide to Preventing Migraines

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10 Surprising Facts on Migraines

  • Young woman having a cup of coffee or tea
    10 Surprising Facts About Migraines
    Here's some food for thought: Did you know that eating avocados, ham, and lentils can trigger migraines? Or that some migraine medications can actually cause headaches? Read on to discover 10 facts about migraines that you may find surprising.
  • Woman writing in journal
    1. Keeping a Diary Is Helpful
    You don't have to write about your deepest fears or biggest crush, like you did in middle school. Instead, track when your migraines occur. Note the time of day they started, what you were doing, what you ate and drank for 24 hours before, and your menstrual cycle, if you're a woman. This can help you pinpoint your migraine triggers.
  • woman stretching outside
    2. Exercise Prevents Migraines
    In fact, regular workouts work as well as daily medication or relaxation at warding off migraines, according to a study in the journal Cephalalgia. Participants exercised for 40 minutes, three times per week. Doctors think sweat sessions may reduce stress hormones that trigger head pain.
  • Close-up of Caucasian woman's hands on stomach in pajamas
    3. Migraines Are Tied to Menstruation
    The hormones that control a woman's monthly cycle also contribute to migraines. Many women begin experiencing migraines when they have their first period or become pregnant, and they find relief after menopause. And the hormones in oral contraceptives often change the severity and frequency of migraines, or cause them to develop in women who haven't had them before.
  • Woman-taking-a-pill
    4. Migraine Medicine Can Cause Headaches
    When you take pain-relieving drugs more than three times per week, you may begin to develop a "rebound," or medication overuse, headache. Each time you swallow a pill, you'll experience a shorter period of relief. Eventually, you're left with a chronic migraine that takes weeks to wear off once you've stopped taking medication.
  • woman look though window
    5. You Can Predict a Migraine
    Most people experience early warning signs of an impending attack. Premonitions such as strange food cravings, mood swings, and uncontrollable yawning can occur up to 24 hours in advance. Immediately beforehand, one in five migraine sufferers will have sensory symptoms known as "aura." These include flashing lights, blind spots, numbness, or the feeling of being grabbed.
  • mature woman taking medication, round white pills
    6. Antidepressants Can Help—Regardless of Your Mood
    The active ingredients in some antidepressants alter the level of chemicals in your brain, reducing your risk of getting a migraine, even if you're not depressed. Other medications used to treat migraines were also initially marketed for other conditions. These include anticonvulsants for epilepsy and beta-blockers or calcium channel blockers for high blood pressure. Bottom line: Don't get hung up on labels!
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  • woman-with-stomachache-on-couch
    7. You Can Have a Migraine Without a Headache
    If you have aura-like symptoms but no throbbing head pain, this may still be a migraine. Other symptoms include nausea, vomiting, and constipation. Some experts think a range of otherwise unexplained signs—such as fever, dizziness, or pain—could also be headache-free migraines.
  • variety-of-fast-food
    8. There's a Link with These 3 Types of Food
    Many foods can set off a migraine, but there are three common culprits. One is food that contains nitrates, including hot dogs and lunch meats. Tyramine in aged cheese, smoked fish, and soy products may be to blame. And monosodium glutamate (MSG), a flavor enhancer in broths, soups, and fast foods, is also a trigger. Avoiding these may help you prevent attacks.
  • woman-outside-on-swingset
    9. There's No Cure for Migraines
    The threat of a migraine usually can't be eliminated. But you can work with your doctor to manage the condition and reduce its effects on your life. Most people use two approaches: fast-acting drugs to stop a migraine in progress, and lifestyle changes and preventive medication to ward off the next one.
  • Woman receiving massage
    10. New Treatments Include Injections and Massage
    Scientists are working on new medications to treat migraines, along with other approaches. These include stimulating nerves near the brain, botulinum toxin injections, monthly or quarterly self-injections of CGRP blockers, and craniosacral therapy (gentle massaging of the neck, head, and spine). Some of these approaches may make the future brighter for people with chronic, disabling migraines.
Slideshow - 10 Surprising Facts About Migraines

About The Author

  1. Migraines. American Academy of Family Physicians.
  2. Headache Information Page. National Institutes of Health. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.
  3. Migraine fact sheet. U.S. Department of Health and Human Services Office on Women's Health.
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Last Review Date: 2021 Jun 15
THIS TOOL DOES NOT PROVIDE MEDICAL ADVICE. It is intended for informational purposes only. It is not a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. Never ignore professional medical advice in seeking treatment because of something you have read on the site. If you think you may have a medical emergency, immediately call your doctor or dial 911.