Common headache triggers and how to stop them
Millions of people in the UK suffer from headaches, with many sufferers experiencing them at least once a month.
Most headaches can be cured with painkillers, but some can actually be avoided altogether with simple lifestyle and habit changes. We take a look at some common headache triggers you might not be aware of, and how you can prevent them.
What You Eat
Unfortunately, some people can get headaches simply by eating foods that don’t agree with them. The following favourites are often cited as causes of headaches:
- Aged cheese – like brie, stilton, parmesan and some cheddar
- Diet fizzy drinks
- Processed meats – like sandwich meat, hot dogs and even bacon
- Ice cream – though thankfully ice cream headaches normally only last a minute
However it’s not just what you eat, but when you eat. Irregular eating and missing out meals can cause headaches, so it’s important to eat a balanced diet.
What You Drink
It’s not just food that can cause headaches – it’s what you drink, too. Drink related headaches can come from:
- Drinking red wine
- Consuming too much alcohol (which should be no surprise to anyone!)
- Too much or too little caffeine – whether you cut down suddenly or experience withdrawal after drinking more than usual
Make sure you drink enough liquid to keep hydrated and stave away drink related headaches. Men should aim to drink 2 litres of fluid a day, women 1.6. This should be made of water, herbal tea, fruit juice and milk rather than coffee or alcohol.
If you’re worried that food or drink are causing headaches, try keeping a food diary. Record everything you consume on a daily basis and see if there’s anything pattern between your food and your headaches.
You can suffer from headaches if your state of mind is putting pressure on you, like:
- Stress and anxiety
- Relaxing after being stressed – if you’ve had a hard week at the office, you might find you have a headache at the weekend when you’re relaxed, or at the start of a holiday
- Anger – pent up anger can cause tension headaches
Try to keep a regular sleep routine to minimise mood related headaches, and incorporate relaxing activities (like Yoga) into your weekdays and weekends. The NHS has several handy relaxation tips to help with headaches if you’re interested in learning more.
Headaches can be caused by ill health, medical conditions and even medication, like:
- Allergies, the cold or flu – the pressure caused by coughing, sneezing can cause headaches
- Medication and painkiller use
- Grinding your teeth at night – which could happen when you are stressed
- Hormone headaches – millions of women get headaches during their menstrual cycle, the menopause or pregnancy, or while taking the pill
- Temporomandibular disorders – lower jaw problems can cause headaches, and can stem from new dentures, rheumatoid arthritis, osteoarthritis, and stress
- Migraines – if you get recurrent headaches with pain on one side of the head, strange lights or sickness, you might be suffering from a migraine
If you think your headache is related to a medical condition or your medication, make an appointment to see a GP.
Other Headache Causes
- Your sleeping pattern – get a good eight hours of sleep a day, and don’t sleep in too long
- Poor posture – make sure chairs give you good support, and if you sit for long stretches take regular breaks to stretch your legs
- Phones – if your day involves phoning lots of people, you might get a headache due to strained muscles in your neck and head. Invest in a hands free kit to minimise headaches
- Strong smells – open windows if you are exposed to strong smells like chemicals and scents in perfume, hygiene products and cleaners, and avoid using heavy products if you can
- The weather – temperature changes, humidity and storms can all irritate your nerves and cause headaches. Keep an eye on the forecast and make sure you are relaxed, stocked up on painkillers and hayfever medication
Do you suffer from headaches?
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