5 ways to prevent headaches

Have headaches? It turns out that your health hygiene may have a lot to do with it. Whether your headaches are chronic or episodic, Jan Bland, NP, an independent member of the HonorHealth medical staff, says your lifestyle choices could be the cause.

To avoid headaches, or lessen their frequency, Bland recommends adopting the following lifestyle habits:

  1. Exercise regularly: Exercise at least 30 minutes three times a week
  2. Eat a balanced diet: Eat at least three times a day, although five small meals a day is preferred
  3. Stay hydrated: Drink 64 ounces or more of water each day
  4. Get adequate sleep: Try to get into a routine of going to bed and waking up at the same time each day, getting seven to eight hours of sleep each night
  5. Reduce stress: Incorporate activities like therapy, massage, acupuncture and exercise to help manage your stress

"All of these are important, but exercise really tops the list," Jan said. "A 2010 study showed that even just brisk walking for 30 minutes three times a week was as effective in treating chronic migraines as any of the prescription medications on the market. The key is consistency. It takes at least eight weeks to see the effects."

Environmental triggers

For some people, outside factors can lead to headaches. The most common environmental contributors include:

  • Weather and changes in barometric pressure
  • Environmental allergies
  • Food allergies
  • Hormones, especially in women

Properly addressing allergy issues can help minimize the frequency or severity of headaches.

"There's a certain percentage of patients whose migraines are associated with food triggers," Bland said. "Foods that contain nitrates like processed meats, processed tomatoes, aged cheeses and excessive caffeine are among the most common food-related headache triggers." Hormone changes or fluctuations can also result in headaches, she noted.

Over-the-counter side effects

While it's tempting to take over-the-counter medications like acetaminophen, aspirin and ibuprofen to treat a headache, Bland said it could actually make matters worse.

"One of the most common things I deal with are chronic daily headaches that are directly associated with overuse of over-the-counter medications," she noted.

Get into a healthy routine, scale back on over-the-counter cures for headaches, and talk to an HonorHealth neurologist or other healthcare expert to better understand the cause of your headaches.