About 39 million Americans suffer from migraines, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. If you are one of those people, you know the sometimes debilitating symptoms they can cause, including:
- sensitivity to light, sound and odors
You can minimize your chances of having a migraine by identifying and avoiding specific triggers.
Read on to find out how to prevent a migraine before it starts.
1. Avoid loud noises and bright lights
Common triggers for migraines are flashing lights (for example, strobe lights), loud noises, and sensory stimulation. These stimuli can be difficult to avoid, but knowing that they are occurring in certain situations and environments could help. These include:
- drive at night
- be in cinemas
- going to clubs or crowded places
- experience the glare of the sun
Take breaks from the TV or computer screen to rest your eyes, and adjust brightness levels on digital screens. Pay close attention to all visual and audio disturbances and make sure you can avoid them easily if you have a migraine.
2. Pay attention to food choices
Certain foods and drinks can cause headaches, such as:
- Red wine
- Processed meats
Know which foods and additives are causing you headaches and learn how to avoid them. Foods and drinks that contain caffeine or alcohol – especially red wines or champagne – are common triggers. Limit the amount you consume during the day, or avoid them altogether if necessary.
3. Keep a headache diary
By keeping a journal, you can easily identify your specific migraine triggers. Here are some examples you might consider:
- what you eat and what you drink
- your exercise routine and schedule
- strong feelings and emotions you may have
- your medications and their side effects
- the times and severity of your headaches
This can help you see a pattern in your migraine occurrences and make it easier for you to avoid one.
4. Beware of hormonal changes
Hormones play an important role in terms of migraines. Many women tend to have more migraines during or just before their period. During this time, women should be especially vigilant with their diet and exercise habits. This will ease the symptoms before they start. Hormone replacement therapy (HRT) and oral contraceptives can increase the frequency and severity of migraines, according to the Mayo Clinic. Some women may find relief by switching to another form of birth control, while others may find that they have fewer migraines when they take birth control pills.
5. Take supplements
Although migraines can be treated with or without medication, it is important to get the right nutrients. Taking certain herbs and minerals can help prevent migraines. Magnesium deficiency can also contribute to the onset of migraines, so taking a daily supplement may help reduce outbursts. However, the Mayo Clinic reports that the results of these studies have been mixed. Talk to your doctor about herbal remedies and other over-the-counter supplements that may relieve your symptoms.
6. Pay attention to the weather
Changes in the weather can impact your migraines. High humidity and hot temperatures can cause headaches as well as rainy days. If the weather becomes uncomfortable for you, you may need to come in and take a break outside. Of course, you can’t always avoid going outdoors, but you can minimize the time you spend in certain weather conditions that cause you headaches.
7. Eat and sleep on a regular schedule
Fasting or skipping meals can trigger migraines. Within an hour of waking up, make sure you eat, and then every three to four hours. Hunger and dehydration both cause migraines. Make sure you drink enough water and never skip meals.
Lack of sleep can also make symptoms worse, so be sure to time at least seven to eight hours. Even sleeping too much can cause headaches, so don’t try to make up for lost sleep by dozing for too long.
8. Avoid stress
While we can’t always control stressful situations, we can control how we react to them. Migraines are a common result of stressful events. Relaxation techniques such as meditation, yoga, and biofeedback can help reduce stress levels.
9. Choose relaxing exercises
An important part of a healthy lifestyle is regular exercise. But strenuous exercise, like weight lifting, can trigger headaches.
Pay attention to how your body reacts to certain activities. Choose activities that help reduce stress without putting too much strain on the body, such as yoga, light aerobics, or tai chi. Taking anti-inflammatory drugs before exercise can help relieve symptoms.