Headaches are among the most common health problems worldwide — the World Health Organization estimates that up to 4 percent of all adults are affected by an aching head on 15 or more days every month. And when a headache strikes, especially a migraine headache, you might be out of commission for several hours or even days.
While there are many effective headache treatments, headache prevention is the place to begin. Even if you can’t stop every headache from happening, some simple changes can help you avoid at least a few.
Headache Prevention: What You Can Control
There are headache triggers you can control, and those you can’t. Some triggers in the latter category are the weather and, if you’re female, the hormonal fluctuations that occur with menstruation, ovulation, and menopause.
The following are common triggers for headaches and migraines, and many are within your control:
Drinking alcohol, and red wine in particular
Sensory overload — exposure to lights that are too bright, sounds that are too loud, or smells that are overpowering
Dehydration — not drinking enough water
Too much sleep or not enough sleep
Exercising too rigorously
Not eating frequently enough
Straining your eyes reading or sitting at a computer
A difference in your caffeine intake — just skipping your morning cup for one day can cause a caffeine-withdrawal headache
Food additives or naturally-occurring substances, including nitrates in processed meats, MSG in fast food and Chinese food, tyramine found in certain aged cheeses and soy-based foods, and the artificial sweetener aspartame.
Practicing these easy steps will help you avoid many common headache triggers:
- Maintain good posture, and move around during the day. Make sure your neck isn’t remaining stiff and that you’re moving it around if you’re doing desk work. Also, take your eyes away from the computer every so often to avoid eyestrain.
- Stay consistent. Keep a regular schedule, and don’t greatly vary your diet or your waking, sleeping, and exercise routines.
- Get an appropriate amount of sleep. Either too much or too little shuteye can leave your head pounding, so make sure you get a steady eight hours each night.
- Stick to a healthy diet and exercise regimen. Healthy foods and regular exercise help ward off headaches. Never skip meals, and have a small, healthy snack between meals so that you don’t get too hungry.
- Drink water. Dehydration can lead to headache, so drink plenty of water throughout the day.
- Manage stress. Stress can build up and cause your head to pound, so find ways to deal with it. Take up a hobby, exercise, try yoga, and do some deep breathing when you feel stress creeping in.
Headache prevention is less painful than dealing with a headache. Persistent headaches need investigation and if you have odd symptoms associated see your Doctor.