Headaches Are a Common Part of Everyday Life for Many Americans

Simple lifestyle changes and awareness of cause can provide relief

LEBANON, Ohio (September 30, 2015) - A change in the weather pattern, a missed meal and everyday stress are just a few of the reasons why so many Americans are plagued by headaches. 

According to the World Health Organization Off Site Icon(WHO), one in every 20 adults around the world suffers from a headache each day, and nearly half of adults suffer from some sort of headache disorder. For the most part, a headache is not life-threatening; however, it can cause substantial personal suffering and have a significant impact on a person’s quality of life.

“Headaches are extremely common and can be triggered by a variety of factors,” said Ann DeClue, MD, a Premier HealthNet physician practicing internal medicine in Lebanon. “Headaches can be triggered by emotional stress, physical exertion, weather changes, bright or flickering lights, motion, poor sleep, and even food and beverages like chocolate, wine or coffee.”

 A headache is pain or discomfort in the head, scalp or neck. According to the World Health Organization Off Site Icon, headache disorders are when someone experiences headaches that cause disability or disrupt their normal way of life. The most common types of headache disorders are tension headaches, migraines or cluster headaches. Sinus headaches and those that begin in a person’s neck are also very common, the National Institutes of Health Off Site Icon(NIH) said.

“The best way to figure out what type of headache a person is suffering from is to look at its characteristics,” Dr. DeClue said. “How it feels, its intensity and where it is located are all things that can help define the headache. For instance, tension headaches tend to be global – or felt all over the head – whereas a migraine is confined to one area.”

There are several steps that can be taken to keep headaches in check:

Journal about it – Keep a headache diary to monitor eating habits, stress levels and weather patterns prior to the onset of a headache, Dr. DeClue said. The diary might reveal a common trigger to a headache that can then be used to avoid future incidences. It can also be a helpful tool for physicians assisting in a person’s care. Health organizations such as the National Headache Foundation (NHF) provide diaries Off Site Icon.

 that can be downloaded and used for free.

Keep hydration in check – Headaches are often a result of dehydration. A study posted by the NIH found Off Site Icon that one in 20 participants suffered from a headache due to water deprivation. The majority of those who experienced a headache found relief within 30 minutes of consuming about 16 ounces of water.

“I think we underestimate the power of water,” Dr. DeClue said. “Dehydration can play a key role in the way we feel.”

Use headache medicines wisely – Many prescription and over-the-counter medications help relieve the pain of headaches, however, when used too frequently, can be a source of headaches themselves. Rebound headaches can result when medication is taken too often. 

Know the serious signs – Headaches may signal something more serious with someone’s health, including problems with blood vessels or bleeding in the brain, as well as extremely high blood pressure, brain tumors, brain swelling, carbon monoxide poisoning and possible brain infections, the NIH said.

The NHF recommends Off Site Icon that individuals seek immediate medical attention if they experience a severe headache that comes on quickly, the headache persists and gets worse, the headache interferes with everyday life, pain relievers are being taken more than twice a week, the headache is a result of trauma, or if symptoms of a migraine change. Treatment should also be sought for headaches accompanied by one or more of the following: confusion, dizziness, numbness, persistent vomiting, shortness of breath, slurred speech, vision loss, weakness and stiff neck. 

For more information on headaches or to find a Premier HealthNet physician near you, visit  http://www.premierhealthnet.com.

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