It’s easy to blame headaches on the usual suspects, such as workload and skipping your morning coffee. But did you know that there are other lesser known set-offs, which, if not identified, could cause frequent headaches? According to Dr Frederick Freitag, former director of headache medicine at Baylor University Medical Centre, us, if you know the root cause of your headache, you can often prevent it from occurring in the first place. As compiled from the Health magazine, livescience.com and lifescript.com, here’s how to gun down hidden headache triggers.
A theory behind heat causing headache is that the body’s attempt to cool itself by sending more blood to the skin deprives the brain of oxygen. In the February 2012 issue of Head Wise, a publication of the National Headache Foundation, Dr Vincent T Martin mentioned that summer brings with it a unique set of triggers, such as sunlight, dehydration, increased physical activity, allergies and humidity.
Remedy: You can’t change the weather, but you can take steps to keep cool. Stay in an air-conditioned environment on hot days and keep yourself well-hydrated when outdoors or exercising. If the AC isn’t an option, avoid getting out when the sun is too bright.
Overusing pain medicines can exacerbate headaches. When taken too regularly, prescription narcotics or medicines containing caffeine and antihistamines can interfere with the brain’s pain-regulation system. Over-the-counter pain relievers, too, can cause rebound headaches. They lower your pain threshold and make your headache feel worse, said Dr Brian Grosberg, co-director of the headache centre at the Montefiore Headache Centre in the Bronx, New York.
Remedy: Limit pain medications to two days a week and never take them more than the label allows. If your head still pounds, then stick to chamomile tea and opt for a nap.
On busy days, you may think stress is causing your head to ache, but maybe, you just forgot to eat. “Your brain runs on two things: glucose, which comes from the food you eat, and oxygen,” Dr Freitag explained. “When it doesn’t get enough of either, the brain tells you that its needs aren ’t getting met by firing up pain-sensitive neurons.”
Remedy: Make sure you fuel up every four to six hours. To keep blood sugar steady, avoid junky sugary snacks. Instead, choose something with slow-burning protein and complex carbohydrates.
Certain foods may bring on headaches. Fermented or aged products, including cider vinegar, soy sauce, and cheeses such as blue, Swiss and cheddar, contain tyramine, an amino acid that can trigger headaches by constricting and expanding blood vessels. Over-processed meats, such as hot dogs and salami, pack a double blow since they often contain both tyramine and preservatives called nitrates, which can increase blood flow to the brain.
Remedy: Keep track of what you eat and when your headaches strike. If you find that certain foods are triggers, try not consuming them and see if it helps. If you’re craving a sandwich, choose fresh meats instead of processed.
If you’re not getting enough of this vital element, you may suffer from headaches. Dr Mauskop’s research has found that up to 50% of people who suffer from acute migraine attacks have low levels of magnesium in their blood.
Remedy: Add more magnesium-rich foods to your diet, including green vegetables such as spinach, whole grains, fish, seeds and nuts. If you don’t get enough magnesium in your diet, you may need to take a supplement of anywhere from 200 to 600 mg per day.
Studies show that headaches from Computer Vision Syndrome (CVS) are common, according to the American Optometric Association. And despite the name, this condition causes problems for more than just the eyes. The continuous flexing of the eye-focusing muscles creates fatigue, eyestrain and headaches.
Remedy: Follow good ergonomics to prevent computer eyestrain and the headaches that erupt as a result. Set your monitor, so the top of the screen is slightly below eye level. Also, sit up straight and make sure your chair supports your neck and back, Dr Freitag said.
If you often suffer from morning headaches, then head to the dentist. A lesser-known but common reason for headaches is clenching or grinding your teeth at night. Known as bruxism, this condition can most commonly get triggered by stress. Certain medications or poor tooth alignment could also be a cause. Most people grind their teeth in their sleep at some time in their lives, but many never find out.
Remedy: Ask your dentist to check for signs of tooth-grinding, including cracked or worn-down teeth. You may be fitted with a custom night guard, which keeps your teeth from touching and helps realign your bite while you sleep. If you want to skip the dental visit, try relaxing before bed with a warm bath, meditate or practice deep-breathing exercises.
(ref from The Express Tribune, November 24th, 2014.)
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