Headaches and Migraines: What You Should Know
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Where the Doctor is Always In
Headaches and migraines are an unfortunate fact of life for many of us. But you don’t have to suffer in silence — you deserve relief and you can get it.
Headaches are a continuing pain in the head (sorry, we had to) for many, many people in the United States. Check out the stats:
- 1 to 4 people in a household get headaches
- Over 12% of the population gets headaches
- 18% of them are women and 6% are men
- If a parent has headaches, there is a 40% chance their children will get them
There are 4 main factors to address when trying to prevent headaches:
- Stress will often trigger a headache. Reduce causes of stress in your life whenever and wherever possible.
- Sleep — or lack thereof — is a big factor. The average person needs 7 – 8 hours of sleep. In addition, keeping a regular sleep schedule can help protect against headaches.
- Exercise is vital — getting 20 – 40 minutes of exercise can help reduce stress (and therefore headaches). So get moving!
- Diet is the final of the Big Four. You can help stave off headaches by not skipping meals and drinking plenty of water. Note that consuming too many caffeinated beverages can trigger headaches.
If you are unsure of what triggers your headaches, try keeping a headache journal. Make sure to track the following every day until your next doctor appointment:
- All consumed food and beverages
- Any medications you take
- Your sleep cycle (When do you sleep? What time do you go to bed and wake up?)
- Any physical activities or exercise
At your next doctor appointment, show your doctor the heachache journal so she or he can figure out what you need to do next.
Do you know or suspect that you from migraines? You are not alone: an astounding 36 million Americans do as well.
But what is a migraine exactly? A migraine is a recurrent, throbbing headache that typically affects one side of the head and is often accompanied by nausea and disturbed vision. Other symptoms include:
- Sensitivity to light, sound, and odors
Severe migraines may trigger additional symptoms. Be sure to see a doctor if you experience the following:
- Shortness of breath
- Slurred speech
- Stiff neck
- Persistent vomiting
- Unexpected symptoms affecting your ears, eyes, throat,or eyes
- Unremitting diarrhea
- Vision loss
A migraine can be debilitating, but you don’t have to take it lying down: you can reduce or even stop your migraines using the following 4-step system:
- Maintain Your Overall Health: Achieving or maintaining a healthy lifestyle is crucial.
- Avoid Triggers: These can include alcohol, caffeine withdrawal, stress, and skipping meals.
- Incorporate Acupuncture: Acupuncture may help relieve stress, a common factor in the triggering of migraines.
- Take Medication: Depending on how frequent and/or severe your migraines are, you may need medication. To explore the current options, see your primary care provider (PCP).
Finally: as with headaches, it may be helpful to keep a migraine journal. If necessary, you can take the journal back to your PCP and inquire about next steps.
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