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How to Prevent Headaches

 
  Source: Article first appeared in SingHealth Guide to Women's Health - "Beautiful inside out". The book is available at major bookstores across Singapore.  
     
 

Taking control of your headache involves both medical therapy and lifestyle changes.

What you can do to prevent headaches

Living with a headache is a challenge and can be incapacitating. The goal is to take control of your headache and not let it take control of you and your life. Apart from medical therapy, a healthy lifestyle is important. 

Things you can do

Some things you can do to avoid getting a headache include:

  • Identify and avoid food triggers
    • Keep a food diary and try to look out for foods that may appear to be setting off your headache.
    • Common foods that may bring on a migraine attack in sufferers include cheese, chocolate, alcohol, nuts, peanut butter and monosodium glutamate (MSG).
  • Get enough sleep and rest
    • Rest is important for almost all migraine attacks.
    • Adequate sleep can abort relatively mild attacks, and may be sufficient to prevent the onset of a migraine, without the need to take medication.
  • Limit the consumption of caffeine
    • This may help to improve the quality of sleep and reduce the frequency of headaches.
  • Adopt a regular exercise regime
  • Eat regular meals
  • Avoid smoking
  • Manage your stress level
  • Avoid irregular shift work

Treating headaches

According to the National Neuroscience Institute, there are many ways of treating a headache. In general, though, these can be separated into symptomatic treatment to relieve the symptoms of an attack; and prophylactic treatment, which is aimed at preventing an attack.

For more severe or disabling migraine attacks, acute management will include the use of painkillers such as NSAIDS, caffeine, ergotamine or a group of medications called triptans, the drug of choice for people who suffer severe attacks.

Preventive medications include antidepressants, which work by affecting the level of serotonin. For patients with frequent migraine attacks, several agents including beta-blockers, anticonvulsants and benzodiazepines may be used as prophylaxis, which, over time, will reduce the frequency of attacks.

Article contributed by the National Neuroscience Institute:

National Neuroscience Institute (NNI)

Ref. U11

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