8 Ways You Can Prevent a Headache

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How you live — from your sleep habits to what you eat — can influence whether or how often you have headaches.

And being aware of the lifestyle and environmental factors that trigger your headaches — and avoiding them — can help save you from a pounding head. At least, it can lessen the intensity and frequency.

How do you come to know what triggers your headaches? Keeping a headache diary can help you connect the dots between your activities and headaches, suggests the American Migraine Foundation (AMF).

Stress can cause muscles to tense up and trigger headaches.

The AMF offers recommendations for practicing good headache hygiene, “the practice of taking care of yourself in a way that will reduce the likelihood and intensity of headaches.” Avoiding headache triggers is key – and goes hand-in-hand with adopting lifestyle practices that help prevent headaches, such as:

  • Maintaining a regular sleep schedule. Getting too little sleep and oversleeping can trigger headaches, as can getting up and going to bed at inconsistent times. Go to bed and get up about the same time every day. Yes, even weekends.
  • Watching what you eat and drink — and when. Don’t skip or delay meals. And drink plenty of water. Also avoid foods that can trigger headaches. This is particularly true if you suffer migraine headaches. Common food and beverage triggers include caffeine, monosodium glutamate (MSG), aged cheese, sausage, red wine and other alcoholic beverages.
  • 8 Ways You Can Prevent a Headache - In Content
  • Controlling stress. Learn techniques to help you relax and reduce emotional stress, which may be caused by overwork, job loss, financial difficulties or family problems. Stress can cause muscles to tense up and trigger headaches. Stress relief techniques include deep breathing, visualization, progressive relaxation and biofeedback. Stress may cause you to clench your jaw or grind your teeth, even while sleeping.
  • Exercising regularly. Exercising 30 minutes at least three days a week is good for your overall health, and can help prevent migraines and tension headaches. Low-impact aerobic exercise prevents tension as it strengthens your muscles and keeps them flexible. Also good for muscle flexibility and stress relief: stretching, tai chi and yoga.
  • Choosing your sports wisely. Activities that involve running, jumping or sudden starts, stops and direction changes can jar your neck and head, leading to tight muscles and headache pain. You may need to take up low-impact sports. Sports that require upper body strength, such as weightlifting, or twisting of the upper body, such as golf, may also trigger headaches.
  • Preventing eye strain. Reading in dim light, extended computer use without a break and a weak, outdated eyeglass prescription can strain your eyes and the muscles around them — and lead to a headache.
  • Practicing good body mechanics. Learn proper lifting and carrying techniques to prevent back and neck strain. Set up your workspace to promote good posture and prevent back, shoulder and neck strain. Make sure your bed and pillows provide good support, again to prevent muscle strain.
  • Avoiding odors and fumes. A variety of scents and fumes — from perfume, paint, gasoline and cleaning products, as well as tobacco smoke — can trigger headaches. Switch to unscented household products.

Special Note about Hormones and Headaches

Many women who suffer migraines often experience them in their menstrual cycle. Birth control pills and hormone replacement therapy may also trigger migraines. Learn more about hormones and headache.

Preventing Migraines with Medicine

Your doctor may prescribe medicines to help prevent migraines. Some may need to be taken daily. Others may only need to be taken when you’re likely to have a migraine.

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