If you are one of the over 40 million Americans who suffer from migraines, you know just how debilitating they can be. These severe headaches can cause intense pulsing or throbbing pain on one side of the head, often accompanied by extreme sensitivity to light and sound, nausea, and vomiting.
In some cases, migraines can last for days – or even longer, causing serious disability. Fortunately, there are several things you can do to help prevent migraines. While there is no one-size-fits-all solution, these tips may help you reduce the frequency and severity of your migraines.
- Get regular exercise
Exercise has been shown to help prevent migraines in a number of different ways. To begin with, it helps reduce stress, a common migraine trigger, by promoting the production of endorphins or the “feel good hormone.” Second, it can help improve sleep quality, another trigger for migraines. Finally, endorphins are the body’s natural painkillers, so regular exercise can help reduce your overall pain levels and make you less susceptible to migraines.
However, remember moderation is key when it comes to exercise and migraines. Stick to low-impact exercises to avoid overexertion
- Keep a migraine diary
One of the best ways to prevent migraines is to keep track of your triggers. You can do this by keeping a migraine diary. Track when your migraines occur, what you were doing beforehand, what you ate, and anything else that might have contributed. This can help you to identify patterns and avoid potential triggers in the future. Common migraine triggers include:
- Excessive stress
- Sleep deprivation
- Foods (aged cheese, salty foods, processed meats, chocolate, caffeine, alcohol)
- Sensory stimuli (bright lights, strong smells)
- Weather changes
- Skipping meals
- Manage stress
Stress is a common trigger for migraines. Try to find ways to manage stress through relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation. You might also want to try relaxation therapies such as massage or aromatherapy. If you are having trouble managing stress on your own, talk to your doctor about seeing a therapist or counselor who can help you develop healthy coping strategies.
- Get enough sleep
As we all now know, sleep deprivation can trigger migraines. Most experts recommend seven to eight hours of sleep per night for adults. If you are not getting enough sleep, try to develop a regular sleep schedule and stick to it as much as possible. Avoid caffeine and alcohol before bed and create a relaxing bedtime routine that will help you to wind down at the end of the day.
- Eat a healthy diet
What you eat (or do not eat) may also affect your risk of developing migraines. For example, skipping meals or fasting can trigger migraines in some people, while others find that certain foods — such as aged cheeses, salty foods, processed meats, artificial sweeteners, and chocolate — increase their migraine frequency. To help prevent migraines, eat regularly scheduled meals and snacks and avoid skipping meals. You might also want to keep a food diary to identify potential food triggers.
- Manage your medications
Certain medications, such as hormonal contraceptives, have been linked to an increased risk of migraines in some women. If you think your medications may be triggering migraines, talk to your doctor about alternative treatments or non-medication options such as lifestyle changes or herbs and supplements with fewer side effects.
- Supplement with magnesium
Studies show that people with migraines have reduced levels of magnesium – a mineral that helps promote nerve function and relax blood vessels. Magnesium supplementation has been shown to be effective in reducing the frequency and severity of migraines and may be used to effectively alleviate symptoms of mild migraines.
Migraines can be debilitating, but there are things you can do to prevent them. Be sure to avoid potential triggers, manage stress, get enough sleep, and eat a healthy diet. You might also want to supplement with magnesium or try relaxation techniques. If your migraines do not seem to go away, talk to your doctor about additional treatment options.