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The Obesity-Migraine Connection

The Obesity-Migraine Connection

Do you have migraine headaches and are overweight? Shedding pounds may be the solution.

Historians say the swirling patterns in Van Gogh’s “Starry Night” illustrate what the artist saw during his migraine auras. Makes sense, since migraine is linked to a constellation of medical conditions that make up metabolic syndrome, including hypertension, heart disease, stroke and obesity. In fact, folks who are obese are 81 percent more likely to be afflicted with episodic migraine headaches than healthy-weight people.

Great news! Researchers from the University of Padova in Italy have figured out that if you have migraine headaches and are overweight, shedding extra pounds will reduce the number of days a month you have a migraine, how long an attack lasts and its severity.

Losing weight may reduce your risk of migraine because weight loss reduces body-wide inflammation; the inflammatory protein called “high sensitivity C-reactive protein” is 11 percent higher in folks with migraines. Weight loss also makes it easier to become more active. Lack of physical activity is associated with as much as a 50 percent higher risk for migraine.

So, if you’re overweight and have migraines, talk to your doctor about working with a nutritionist to help you shed those extra pounds. Some research indicates the ketogenic diet that’s helpful to some people with epilepsy also helps control migraines (make sure it relies on healthy fat and proteins from nuts, egg whites, salmon or ocean trout).

If your weight gain has happened since you started taking migraine-control medications (valproic acid, amitriptyline and flunarazine are associated with substantial weight gain), ask your doc about another therapy.

Medically reviewed in September 2019.

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