Migraines more frequent in obese women

One more reason to make diet and exercise a priority

Contributed by Vincent Martin, MD

autumn treesIf you’ve ever had a migraine, or if you have a friend or family member who suffers from migraines, you know just how debilitating these headaches can be. That’s why I like to share any new information I feel could be of help to those who suffer with this condition. Researchers at Johns Hopkins recently tracked thousands of patients and found people who were obese are more than 80 percent more likely to suffer from occasional migraines when compared to people of average weight. What’s more, the research indicated this was especially true for Caucasian women under the age of 50.

For me, this study is particularly important for a few reasons. First, while previous studies have shown a link between obesity and chronic migraines (migraines that occurred 15 days or more per month), this is the first study to show a link between obesity and occasional migraines. Second, some medications used to prevent migraines have a possible side effect of weight gain. By knowing that obesity is a risk factor for even occasional migraines, I can better prescribe treatment plans that will best benefit my patients. Last but not least, this study provides me with another great reason to stress the importance of maintaining a healthy weight. While I believe more research needs to be done to definitively determine if weight loss could help prevent migraines, there’s no doubt regarding the many health benefits associated with proper diet and exercise.

Migraine triggers

The old saying “an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure” holds especially true when it comes to migraines. While the triggers of migraines differ from person to person, there are some that are more common than others. These include: stress, menstrual cycles, skipping meals, changes in weather, bright lights, certain foods that contain monosodium glutamate (MSG) or nitrates, alcohol, birth control pills, and medicines that expand blood vessels.

There is hope

The best news for patients who suffer from debilitating headaches is that 90-95 percent can be helped through treatment and behavioral changes. There is also much research being done on the topic of migraines. My colleagues and I are currently researching how female hormones, sinus disease and allergies trigger headaches. We are also investigating how some diseases such as asthma, rhinitis, depression and anxiety are interrelated with headache. If you have an interest in supporting such research click here.

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