Although they are infrequently a symptom of a more serious condition, the average headache can be distracting and can interfere with your ability to perform your everyday activities. Below are twelve common causes of headaches and some information that can help you to manage and prevent them.
Stress is one of the major causes of headaches. More than simply an emotional response, stress also entails a physical response in the body, involving hormones, muscles, the circulatory system, and brain function. Managing stress by getting adequate rest, eating well, exercising, and taking time to relax can help with a number of conditions, including headaches.
2. Eye Strain
Eye strain can cause headaches as the body works harder to see properly. If you use a computer screen often, decrease the brightness on the screen and make sure your workspace is adequately lit from another source. If you find yourself straining to see close up or far away, get a vision checkup to determine whether you need corrective eyewear or to change your current prescription. Whether or not you wear glasses, give your eyes a rest by taking a break from the screen by closing them for a short while.
The food you eat has a direct impact on your overall wellbeing. Eating well-balanced meals regularly can help to avoid the cause of headaches due to hunger or low blood sugar. Additionally, consuming large amounts of sugar, salt, and caffeine can trigger headaches, so make an effort to eat low-processed, well-balanced, and healthy meals.
Dehydration can cause headaches in a number of ways. First, dehydration can negatively affect mood, stress hormone levels, and fatigue, all of which in turn can make headaches more likely. Second, in cases of severe dehydration, the brain can actually shrink by a small volume temporarily, causing a headache. Staying well hydrated and maintaining a healthy balance of electrolytes in your diet can help to relieve and prevent headaches.
Some individuals may be susceptible to getting headaches when certain weather conditions are present. Not much can be done regarding the weather, but there are other environmental factors that are controllable. Startling and loud noises, as well as repetitive low-medium volume sounds (like traffic and distant sirens) can trigger headaches and migraines, or make them worse. If you find that you are sensitive to noise, consider using earplugs or taking steps to ensure a quieter workspace and sleeping environment. When reading or working on the computer, ensure that you have sufficient lighting to decrease eye strain. When working in the evening, consider installing a blue-light filter for your computer or phone.
6. Sleep Deprivation
Sleep hygiene, much like nutrition and hydration, is a key aspect of your wellbeing. Lack of sleep can cause fatigue, stress, and low mood, all of which can contribute to headaches. Aim to get between seven and eight hours of sleep per night, and do so consistently.
7. Medication Side Effects
Many medications list headaches as a side effect. Some decongestants, for instance, may trigger or worsen headaches by constricting blood vessels. If you use decongestants to deal with sinus pain, consult a physician to ensure that you are not suffering from an underlying sinus infection. Be sure to read the labels of the over-the-counter medications you are taking and speak with your doctor regarding side effects that you’re experiencing.
8. Physical Strain
Putting too much strain on the body through exercise can also result in headaches. Take care not to push yourself too far while exercising. Exerting yourself too much can cause the blood vessels in your head to swell, or overly strain your head and neck muscles, resulting in a headache. Listen to your body and practice mindful biomechanics when exercising and playing sports.
9. Being Sedentary
With office jobs and screen-based entertainment, it can be easy to fall into a sedentary lifestyle. A lack of exercise can result in a number of health issues, including the triggering of headaches. Regularly exercising, walking and biking rather than driving, and engaging in more outdoor leisure activities can help to prevent headaches.
10. Hormonal Changes
Hormone changes, such as those occurring during a woman’s menstrual cycle, or in both men and women as they age, can result in headaches as well. Speak your internist or OBGYN to learn more.
11. Poor Posture
Poor and strenuous posture can contribute to the triggering of headaches. Sit up straight in order to ensure proper blood blow. If you work in an office, position your work area so you do not have to hunch over your desk, and make sure your chair offers you sufficient lumbar support. Try to slouch less when sitting, standing, and walking.
12. Smoking and Recreational Drugs
Recreational drugs and tobacco smoke can trigger headaches in a number of ways. In addition to the other risks to health posed by smoking, nicotine, found in cigarettes, cigars, smokeless tobacco products, as well as most e-cigarettes, can trigger headaches by constricting blood vessels (vasoconstriction), raising blood pressure, and irritating the throat and upper respiratory system.
Headaches are infrequently symptoms of a more serious underlying condition, and can generally be managed to an extent through the above lifestyle methods. However, headaches can also be caused by factors not manageable exclusively through lifestyle. If you experience severe acute or chronic headaches or migraines, schedule a consultation with NY Neurology Associates. If you would like to schedule an appointment or check for availability, book online or call (646) 679-6609.