How can I prevent migraines?

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.
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Doctors have found that using some medications for something they were not originally made for (off-label) can be very effective in relieving migraine symptoms.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.
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.
Mosaraf Ali, MD
Integrative Medicine
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.
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.
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.
Angela Lowery
Family Medicine
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.
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.
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.

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Important: 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.