Migraines affect about 30 million Americans at least once in a a year. Overall migraines accounts for the majority of severe headaches in women and about 1 in 5 of severe headaches in men. Women are three times more likely to suffer with migraines than men. While various medication may be used to treat episodes, prevention should also be considered especially among people who suffer with frequent migraines.
How to Prevent Migraine Attacks
There are various drugs that may be used for preventing migraine attacks. This is known as prophylactic treatment. It includes drugs such as 5-HT2 antagonism, beta blockers, calcium channel blockers and tricyclic antidepressants among other medication. However, other non-drug measures are equally important. It starts with identifying the triggers of migraines, which can vary significantly from migraine sufferer to another. These triggers need to be avoided or at least minimized to reduce the frequency and/or severity of migraine attacks.
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Several studies have shown an association between sleep and migraines. It is now understood that getting enough sleep and good quality sleep reduces the frequency of migraine attacks. This is part of many of the healthy living measures that should be followed by frequent migraine sufferers along with drinking plenty of water, eating regular meals and exercising.
However, it is not simply a matter of sleeping for 8 hours. The quality of sleep is equally important. This means having a restful sleep without disturbances. Maintaining a cool environment, avoiding large fluid intake prior to sleep which may cause awaking to urinate, wearing comfortable night clothing and ensuring that there is suitable support with a good quality mattress and firm pillows are some of the important measures to take.
Foods and Drinks
A variety of foods and beverages may be trigger migraines. Some of the more common food triggers among migraine sufferers includes pickled foods, vinger and salty foods, processed foods, aged cheeses and foods laden with MSG (monosodium glutamate) among a host of other foods. It is not uncommon for some migraine sufferers to find a specific food that is a trigger for them but not for the majority of other migraine sufferers.
Certain fruits, meats and nuts are other possible trigger foods. Among the various beverages, alcoholic and caffeinated drinks are common triggers among migraine suffers. With regards to alcohol, certain beverages are more likely to be a problem for migraine patients. Red wine and other darker alcoholic drinks tend to be a stronger trigger than white wine and lighter-colored alcohol beverages.
Vitamins and Minerals
Although migraines are not due to a nutritional deficiency, several studies have shown the benefits of certain micronutrients in reducing the frequency and severity of attacks. This includes magnesium, riboflavin (vitamin B2) and co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10). These vitamins and minerals can be found in abundance in several different foods but supplements may also be an option if necessary and approved by a doctor.
Magnesium is abunant in wholegrains, seeds, nuts and green vegetables. Riboflavin (vitamin B2) can be found in animal foods including dairy and meat, particularly beef. Co-enzyme Q10 (CoQ10) is present in many foods but is found in high amounts in wholegrains and fatty fish. Melatonin is another substance that is found in foods and has been shown to possible assist with migraine prevention. It can be found in barley, olive, rice, tomatoes and walnuts.
Changes in weather can trigger migraines. This may include a change in temperature, humidity levels and atmospheric pressure. While these changes in the climatic conditions cannot be prevented or avoided, a person on can be conditioned to be less sensitive to it. This involves increasing exposure to these climatic changes for gradually longer periods of time when it does arise rather than trying to avoid these weather conditions. The onset of these weather changes can also be used as marker as to when to take prophylactic medicine.
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Women may find that certain hormonal changes may serve as a trigger. Migraine attacks may therefore follow the hormonal fluctuations during the course of the menstrual cycle. While this cannot be avoided, using prophylactic medication during certain times of the menstrual cycle may help to prevent the onset of a migraine or at least reduce the severity of the attacks.
In addition, women who are using oral contaceptives may experience more frequent migraine attacks. It is therefore important to report this exacerbation to a medical professional. Alternate forms of oral contraceptives may be considered. It is important to note that missing oral contraceptive pills can render it ineffective. Therefore stopping and starting the pill is not a solution to manage migraine attacks that are exacerbated by using oral contraceptives.
Another major trigger of migraines is psychological stress. This can include mental or emotional stress. Some people may find that even the slightest stress can trigger a migraine. Other people are less sensitive but may still experience attacks when under severe psychological stress. This can include both personal and work stress.
Stress is unavoidable and it is important to learn to manage stress in order to minimize the risk of triggering migraines. Various relaxation techniques and even behavioral therapy may therefore be useful in stress management. Alcohol consumption should not be used to reduce stress as it can trigger or worsen migraines.
Exercise and Physical Activity
Despite the benefits of exercise for general health and possibly even managing migraines, it can sometimes have the opposite effect and trigger an attack. This is more likely to occur with strenuous workouts. Any physical activity that is strenuous can have a similar effect, including sexual activity. Sometimes the physical strain can be as innocuous as lifting a heavy object. Therefore it is important to be cautious with all physical activity.
However, exercising should not be completely avoided in an attempt to keep migraine attacks at bay. It is important to exercise regularly. In general, exercising for 150 minutes in a week (divided into 30 minute sessions) is advisable for its health benefits. However, the duration and intensity of the exercise should be gradually built up until the body is conditioned appropriately.