Headaches Don't Have to Rule Your Life

Minor occasional headaches happen to most of us, but serious, regular headaches are another matter altogether and can seriously interfere with your enjoyment of life. Here are ten tips for reducing your headache risk.

  1. Identify your triggers. Keep track of your headaches in a headache diary, noting what you ate that day, what the weather was like, where you were, etc., to identify patterns. Once you know what triggers your headaches you can take steps to avoid them.
  2. Reduce your stress. While avoiding stress completely is impossible, reducing its effects is not. Learn about biofeedback, purchase and play relaxation tapes, take long baths, get a massage — all things that can minimize the effects of stress on your body.
  3. Stop smoking. Smoking is a risk factor for several kinds of headaches. Even breathing cigarette or cigar smoke can trigger a headache for some people.
  4. Avoid too many OTC medications. If you take the maximum dosage of over-the-counter pain relievers for your headaches more than two or three times a week, you should talk to your doctor. Eventually, these medications will fail to relieve your pain. What's more, they can cause rebound headaches, which begin when the medication wears off.
  5. Limit alcohol. If you drink, limit your intake to an occasional drink or two. Beer and red wine are particular headache triggers for many people.
  6. Get regular sleep. Maintaining regular sleep habits (going to bed and getting up at the same time, even on weekends) is particularly important for migraine sufferers. Oversleeping can be a migraine trigger. Similarly, fatigue can cause tension headaches.
  7. Eat regular meals. Missing a meal can trigger headaches for many. Eating a healthy diet rich in carbohydrates and low in fat and drinking plenty of water to keep well hydrated are also important.
  8. Exercise regularly. Regular exercise, whether it's walking the dog or parking a distance from the mall, is an important stress reducer. Start gradually: a rigorous aerobic workout can induce headache if you haven't warmed up or aren't used to exercise.
  9. Have your eyes checked. Staring at a computer screen all day can cause eyestrain, which can lead to tension-type headaches. Some people invest in a pair of glasses that provide optimal vision at the distance from the screen.
  10. Sit up straight. Notice how you cradle the phone on your shoulder, how you carry your purse, how you sit behind the wheel of your car. Each of these can put undo strain on neck and shoulder muscles, leading to tension-type headaches.