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Migraines can come on unexpectedly without warning. To avoid migraines take medications as ordered by your healthcare provider, eat well balanced meals; get adequate sleep and avoid foods that are commonly known to trigger your headaches.
The following tips are recommended to help you prevent migraines:
- Eat regular meals. Large gaps between meals can trigger migraines.
- Know your food triggers. Common food triggers include wine, cured meats, aged cheeses, chocolate and MSG, a seasoning often added to Chinese and Mexican foods. Everyone is different. Keep a food log to identify your patterns.
- Get enough sleep. Not enough sleep or irregular sleeping patterns can trigger migraines.
- Exercise regularly. Moderate exercise can help you sleep, which helps reduce migraines. But extreme exercise can trigger migraines. Find a healthy balance.
- Reduce stress. Find ways to manage stress and reduce the risk of flare-ups.
- Avoid caffeine. Too much caffeine can trigger migraines and make anti-migraine medications less effective.
Most migraineurs have dozens of triggers, and it's often impossible to avoid all of them. What's more, the effect of a given trigger on your headache can be unpredictable. And triggers often interact. For example, stress might not cause an attack without fatigue. In such a case, you may be able to use your list of triggers to manage a headache, if not prevent it. If a woman knows she's more vulnerable to migraine during menstruation, she may want to avoid alcohol during this time. Migraine headaches are also most common on weekends, perhaps because people are more likely to drink alcohol, sleep late, or experience caffeine withdrawal (some people drink less coffee on weekends or have their first cup later than usual). When migraine headaches are frequent, they can cause muscle tightness, which can, in turn, trigger more headaches.
When people think about migraine headaches, they often think of what they need in that exact moment to treat the pain. What many people aren't aware of is that the battle against your headaches should start much sooner -- with prevention.
Prevention comes in a variety of forms. First of all, there are lifestyle modifications. Migraineurs have brains that appreciate continuity and consistency. Any changes in the daily pattern can often trigger a headache. Here are some examples for migraine prevention:
- Going to bed and awakening at the same time (weekdays AND weekends),
- Maintaining steady blood sugars- so no skipping meals
- Consistent, and LOW stress levels (so do your deep breathing, biofeedback, and other relaxation techniques when stressful situations arise).
If you practice these habits routinely, you will reduce your headache frequency. Additionally, avoid any food triggers that you have noted will often bring on a migraine headache. Food triggers vary from person to person so pay attention to your own history rather than what's been reported.
For some people, behavioral modifications are not enough and their headache frequency remains high. In those cases, a daily medication, either an herbal supplement such as magnesium or riboflavin, or a prescription drug may be prescribed to help reduce headache frequency. The goal of these preventive measures is to reduce the frequency, severity, and duration of your headaches. A good preventative can also make your acute treatment more effective. So, the next time you have a headache and think about what you need to make the pain go away, think first about what you did to prevent it.
People who have chronic migraines often use preventative treatments to try to avoid them.
Doctors have found that using some medications for something they were not originally made for (off-label) can be very effective in relieving migraine symptoms.
Antidepressants are frequently prescribed to prevent migraines. There appears to be a connection between migraines and serotonin, which is a brain chemical that regulates your mood. Using a drug to increase serotonin levels seems to be quite effective in regulating both migraines and mood. Cyproheptadine, which is an antihistamine, is known for helping to regulate serotonin levels.
Serotonin is a vasoconstrictive chemical, which means that it makes your blood tissues and vessels shrink. Many doctors believe that using antidepressant drugs to increase your serotonin levels will help you avoid inflammation of your brain tissues and vessels. However, these medicines are not recommended for people with vascular disease, coronary disease or high blood pressure because the drugs can narrow the coronary arteries.
Anti-seizure medications also are a treatment possibility, although these are usually saved for use until other treatments have been ruled out. These medications work by blocking the neurotransmitters that begin migraine attacks.
If you're prone to migraines, certain foods and situations can trigger an attack. To find out how you might be able to ward off future migraines or at least reduce their frequency, watch this video featuring integrative medicine expert and Dr. Oz Show guest Mosaraf Ali.
By recognizing an aura as the beginning of a migraine, you can take medication quickly to stop the headache before it starts. In this video, Adel Olshansky, MD, a neurologist at West Hills Hospital, describes the kinds of medications that can help.
Migraine headaches consist of moderate to severe throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head. To avoid migraine headaches, you can do several things. It is also important to make sure that you follow your doctor's advice for treatment, take your prescribed medications, eat at least three meals a day, exercise, get enough sleep every night and avoid excessive activity. Stay away from things that can trigger migraine headaches. Sensitivity to light, smell, sound, and certain foods can all induce a migraine headache. So, it is a good idea to avoid situations and foods that may encourage migraines.
Here are ways to prevent migraines:
- Keeping a diary: A diary can help an individual determine what triggers the migraine attack. Writing down when a migraine attack begins, how long each phase lasts, responses to medications, foods eaten in the 24 hours preceding an attack, any unusual stresses before the attack, and how the individual feels and what she was doing when a migraine attack begins is important.
- Dietary factors: Identifying and avoiding foods that consistently trigger headaches may be important in helping to reduce the occurrence of migraine headaches. Eat meals at regular times daily and do not skip meals.
- Stress reduction: Integrative therapies that reduce stress, such as yoga, therapeutic touch, and relaxation techniques, are important in reducing migraine attacks.
- Regular sleep patterns: It is important for migraine sufferers to get adequate consistent sleep every night. Healthcare professionals generally recommend eight hours of uninterrupted sleep nightly.
- Regular exercise: Regular aerobic exercise reduces tension and can help prevent migraines. If a doctor agrees, choosing an aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or cycling, may help decrease migraine attacks. Warm up slowly, however, because sudden, intense exercise can cause headaches.
- Caffeine intake reduction: Limiting caffeine consumption to less than two caffeine-containing beverages a day may be of benefit for reduction of migraine attacks.
- Light modification: Avoiding bright or flashing lights, and wearing sunglasses, if sunlight is a trigger, may help reduce migraine attacks.
- Smoking cessation: Smoking cessation is important in decreasing migraine attacks, as smoke can be a potential allergen that triggers a migraine. Also, nicotine, one of the components of tobacco, stimulates vascular activity in the brain that may trigger a migraine attack.
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Migraines can sometimes be prevented by adopting certain lifestyle changes, such as having a consistent sleep regimen, exercising regularly, eating regularly, having a healthful diet and not getting dehydrated. Additionally, being aware of potential migraine triggers, such as stress, certain foods and food additives, excess alcohol or caffeine intake, hormonal changes in women and weather changes, can also help one better manage his migraines. There may also be certain preventive medications that one could try if thought to be appropriate by his physician.
The best way to prevent migraine is to find out what triggers your attacks and avoid or limit these triggers. Since migraine headaches are more common during times of stress, finding healthy ways to cut down on and cope with stress might help. Talk with your doctor about starting a fitness program or taking a class to learn relaxation skills.
Talk with your doctor if you need to take your pain-relief medicine more than twice a week. Doing so can lead to rebound headaches. If your doctor has prescribed medicine for you to help prevent migraine, take them exactly as prescribed. Ask what you should do if you miss a dose and how long you should take the medicine. Talk with your doctor if the amount of medicine you are prescribed is not helping your headaches.
The answer is based on source information from the National Women's Health Information Center.
This content reflects information from various individuals and organizations and may offer alternative or opposing points of view. It should not be used for medical advice, diagnosis or treatment. As always, you should consult with your healthcare provider about your specific health needs.