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There are ways to reduce your risk of a migraine or at least make it less severe. Following these tips and maintaining a healthy lifestyle is a good start.

Sleep

  • Most adults need approximately 6-8 hours of sleep per night.
  • Go to bed and wake up at regular times each day.
  • Do not sleep excessively on the weekends and too little on the weekdays.

Diet

  • Eat regular meals three times each day including protein, fruits, vegetables and carbohydrates. Low blood sugar can trigger a headache.
  • Avoid excessive amounts of ordinary sugars. Rapid changes in blood sugar may provoke a migraine.
  • Avoid excessive amounts of processed foods.

Exercise

  • Moderate exercise three to five times each week for 30 minutes will help reduce stress and keep you physically fit and alter the body chemicals that cause and prevent a headache
  • Too much exercise or certain types of exercise such as weight lifting and running or inconsistent patterns of exercise may trigger a headache

Hydration

  • A normal adult should drink about eight glasses of water throughout the day. Dehydration may cause headaches.

Limit Caffeine and Alcohol

  • Caffeine is a stimulant and caffeine withdrawal may cause headaches when blood levels of caffeine drop. As little as two 6-ounce cups of home-brewed coffee or three cans of cola can be enough to influence a headache.
  • Alcohol may be a trigger for headaches. This may be different for different people.  Some are more sensitive to red wine or hard liquor than other beverages, for example. Evidence also shows that consuming alcohol in moderation may reduce the number of headaches.

Reduce Stress

  • Stress is the number one trigger for a migraine.
  • Relaxation and stress management may help reduce headaches.
  • Meditation and other deep relaxation exercises can be especially useful.
  • Training in Biofeedback and other behavioral-based therapies are as effective as medication.

Headache or Migraine Triggers

Individuals with a migraine frequently report that their attacks may be precipitated by "triggers." In a recent survey of 200 consecutive migraine patients referred to our headache center, over 90 percent identified at least one migraine attack trigger.

Not surprisingly, the triggers parallel many of the healthy habits we listed above. No single item acts as a trigger for all migraine patients, and triggers don't consistently provoke a migraine for an individual. Sometimes, simultaneous exposure to two or more triggers is required for a migraine. And, ironically, a trigger may also serve as a treatment, as is the case with caffeine.

Here are some examples of triggers. Identify what provokes your headache and adjust accordingly. Manage the factors you can and maintain a healthy lifestyle to minimize the effects of the triggers that are out of your control.

Dietary

  • Skipping meals/fasting
  • Food Items
  • Aged cheese
  • Alcohol/red wine
  • Chemicals, such as MSG (monosodium glutamate)
  • Caffeine withdrawal
  • Processed meats containing nitrates

Medications

Don't discontinue use. Talk to your physician if you think medications are triggering your migraines.

Changes in Sleep Patterns

These include napping, oversleeping or getting too little sleep.

Environmental

  • Weather changes, such as extreme heat or cold
  • Bright or flashing lights, including being out in the sun without sunglasses or eye protection
  • Odors or pollution, such as smog, perfumes or chemicals

Estrogen Level Changes

  • Your period
  • Hormone replacement therapies
  • Birth control pills
  • Menopause

Stress

  • Job changes, such as a new job, promotion, demotion or job loss
  • Family changes, including birth, marriage, divorce or death
  • Finances
  • Stress letdown on the weekends or during vacations, or after completing a project or stressful task

Physical Factors

  • Injuries, such as head trauma
  • Overexertion, as in exercising when out of shape or in heat
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