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Lifestyle changes may prevent headaches, evidence suggests

Doctors seeing more headache and migraine patients during pandemic
Posted at 6:49 PM, Oct 21, 2020
and last updated 2020-10-21 18:49:24-04

There are more than 200 types of headaches. While some may be excruciating, you may not need to reach for the meds.

Consumer Reports is breaking down the evidence that suggests lifestyle changes can actually help prevent headaches before they strike.

About a quarter of women and approximately 12% of men ages 18 to 44 have recently suffered from a migraine or other severe headache, according to a 2018 national health survey.

Consumer Reports says if you suffer from recurring headaches, it's important to talk to your doctor to figure out what might be causing them.

"Many headaches don’t have a clear cause. But migraine headaches sometimes have a trigger that people can identify, like stress, hormonal changes, dehydration,” says Lauren Friedman, Consumer Reports Health Editor.

While some over-the-counter and prescription medicines offer headache relief, they often come with side effects. That’s one reason it’s important to try to prevent a headache before it even starts.

"There is evidence that shows that simple lifestyle changes can help prevent headaches - those are things like keeping consistent mealtimes, bedtimes and wake times and also staying hydrated,” Friedman said.

And 20 minutes of aerobic exercise each day has been found to decrease the frequency and severity of migraines.

Your doctor can also suggest other treatment options including physical therapy, biofeedback, and acupuncture.Headaches can sometimes signal more dangerous conditions - including some, such as a stroke, that must be addressed immediately. They can also be a symptom of COVID-19, appearing in about a third of diagnosed patients in the U.S.