5 Habits that Can Trigger Migraine Attacks - Step To Health

5 Habits that Can Trigger Migraine Attacks

A migraine is a recurring, throbbing, and intense headache that usually affects one side of the head, although it can affect both.
5 Habits that Can Trigger Migraine Attacks

Last update: 25 June, 2020

Migraine attacks can be precipitated by certain events, foods, or changes in your body. These events are known as precipitants or triggers. Although triggers don’t actually cause migraines, they can make you more vulnerable to migraine attacks.

It can be very useful to know these risky habits in order to take them into account in your daily life and thus try to avoid migraine attacks. In this article we’ll tell you 5 habits that you can do that could trigger a migraine. Learn all about them!

What is a migraine?

A woman suffering a migraine attack.

Not all headaches are migraines, nor do all migraines cause headaches. A migraine is a recurring, throbbing, and intense headache that usually affects one side of the head, although it can affect both.

The pain starts suddenly and may be preceded or accompanied by other visual, neurological, or gastrointestinal symptoms.

Habits that could be triggering your migraine attacks

In a study of 200 migraine patients, more than 90% of patients identified at least one precipitant associated with their migraines: the most common being physical or emotional stress (77%), menstruation (72%), exposure to a bright or flickering light (65%) and various odors (61%).

1. Drinking alcohol

A survey of more than 2,000 Dutch people determined that many people who suffer from migraines avoid alcohol because it can trigger severe headaches. 78% of patients who drank alcohol mentioned red wine as the specific drink that could trigger an attack.

The authors of the study published in the European Journal of Neurology point out that alcohol is a trigger for migraines, since it affects around a third of those prone to migraines, and the amount of alcohol and the time it takes to cause a headache also vary.

2. Stress

Woman with head in hands,.
Anxiety and stress have been identified as the main triggers of migraines in most studies.

Stress is the most common trigger of migraine attacks. Everyone has felt stress and anxiety at some point. Stress is a response to an emotional stimulus (mostly a threat) in any given situation. Anxiety is a reaction to stress.

Without a doubt, those who suffer from migraine attacks have difficulty adapting to times of change. Also, they’re more likely to suffer from anxiety. People who suffer migraines are often perfectionists and demanding. Therefore, there is a clear association between migraines and anxiety.

3. Sleep

There is a clear relationship between sleep and migraines, which also relates to a variety of aspects. One trigger for migraines is a change in sleep rhythm, whether due to excess or lack of sleep.

Approximately half of migraine patients have difficulty falling asleep or staying asleep: 38% sleep an average of 6 hours or less per night and, as a consequence, there is a significant increase in frequency and severity of migraine attacks, with 71% of headaches occurring upon wakening.

4. Food

Different kinds of cheese.
Cheese and many cured or processed products are rich in biogenic amines, possible triggers for migraine attacks.

Although there are no conclusive studies showing in detail exactly how a given product can cause migraines or other types of headaches, some research suggests that the highest risk foods are those that contain large amounts of substances called biogenic amines.

Two of these amines, tyramine and histamine, are the most suspect, and are found in:

  • Processed meats
  • Canned and smoked products
  • Peanuts
  • Avocados
  • Alcoholic drinks
  • Seafood
  • Cheese

5. Smoking

Tobacco acts as a precipitating factor for headaches, specifically migraines. This is indicated by a study that shows that smokers have more migraine attacks. The work has appeared in The Journal of Headache and Pain.

The researchers highlight the important role that dosage plays. The results of the interviews reveal that with five cigarettes a day or more you start to get migraines.

Finally, to help you assess the risk factors that lead you to develop migraines, we recommend keeping a personal diary. In this diary, you can write down what day and under what circumstances you had a migraine attack, as well as other information about the instance.

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