10 Ways to Mitigate Migraines
As headache sufferers know, migraines are often severely debilitating and can significantly interfere with daily life. An estimated 30 million people in the U.S get them. Medications help, but they aren’t the only solution. The right medicine, combined with behavioral and lifestyle changes, can help reduce the severity and frequency of these headaches, according to Lee Peterlin, a neurologist whose research focuses on the role of obesity and stress-related disorders in people with migraines. “There are many tools in the arsenal to combat migraines,” Peterlin says. “But each person’s migraine treatment needs to be individualized. No one plan works for everyone. You need to consider all the treatment modalities available.”
1 / Aerobic exercise
Three to four days per week, roughly 40-minute sessions; you should exercise just hard enough to reach a light sweat or be mildly out of breath.
2 / Eat Regular Meals
Don't skip. Fasting triggers migraines, so try to space meals evenly.
3 / Late night snack
These can reduce risk of a migraine attack by about 4 percent, but keep the snack healthy: a few nuts or a piece of fruit to maintain blood sugar.
4 / Maintain healthy weight
Keep your BMI under 25. Obese people are at a much higher risk for episodic and chronic migraines.
5 / Sleep
Get seven to eight hours of shut-eye, and try to wake and go to sleep at the same time each day—even on weekends.
6 / Curb caffeine
Don't drink more than 8 to 10 ounces of caffeinated beverages per day. Too much can cause withdrawal head-aches. If kept to 10 ounces per day, a little extra caffeine can help decrease the pain of an acute migraine attack.
7 / Say no to red wine and nitrates/nitrites
Avoid red wine and processed meats like bacon and hot dogs, which are well-described triggers.
8 / More Omega-3's, please
Studies suggest you might want to include fish oil and flaxseed, which have natural anti-inflammatory properties, in your diet.
9 / Timing is everything
Treat an acute migraine attack as quickly as possible. If you wait, medicine might not work as well.
10 / Be alert to lightning strikes
Keep meds handy during lightning or high-pressure storms, when migraine attacks are more likely.
Illustration by Zoe More O'Ferrall