Dispelling migraine myths with just the facts, ma’am

Although there are 29.5 million migraine sufferers in the US, many people who are not affected by this condition continue to believe commonly-held myths about migraine. According to the National Headache Foundation, here are the facts:

Fact: For certain migraine sufferers, caffeine is a migraine inhibitor, for others it is a trigger. Keeping a headache diary can help determine whether caffeine helps or hurts your migraine. Caffeine is found naturally and as an additive in coffee, tea, chocolate, cola, certain soft drinks, and some pain relieving and acute migraine medications.

Fact: Stress is a commonly recognized trigger of migraines. Stress can be physical or emotional. It can be good or bad. It is an unavoidable part of modern life.
Events causing emotional stress can trigger a migraine headache. Migraine sufferers are thought to have highly sensitized brains. In times of emotional stress, certain chemicals are released that provoke the vascular changes that can cause a migraine headache.  Factors related to stress include anxiety, worry, shock, depression, excitement and mental fatigue. After a stressful period there may be a letdown which can, in itself, trigger a migraine headache.

Fact:  For those who suffer from chronic, recurring migraines, exercise can either provoke an attack or lessen the frequency and severity of these headaches. If exercise or physical strain induce a headache, it is important to see a healthcare provider. Maintaining a regular exercise program can reduce the number of headaches and contribute to overall good health.
Fact: Those suffering from frequent migraines may have a low magnesium level. Magnesium has a relaxant effect on smooth muscle, such as in blood vessels. Daily supplementation of 500 - 750 mg increases the body’s magnesium level. Riboflavin (Vitamin B2) assists nerve cells in the production of ATP, an energy producing substance, which is essential for many chemical reactions to occur in the body. High doses of riboflavin (400 mg. is recommended) may reverse cells’ “energy crisis” during migraine attacks.

Fact: Migraine can be triggered by lack of sleep. Go to sleep at the same time every night and wake up the same time each morning, including on weekends. This maintains the body’s natural circadian rhythm.

Fact: Certain fumes and vapors can initiate a migraine headache.  Perfumes are also often a culprit. Being in public places which are smoke-filled or poorly ventilated can result in the onset of a migraine.

Fact: Migraines can be hereditary.  If one parent has migraine, the child has a 50 percent chance of having them. If both parents have them, there is a 75 percent chance the child will develop migraine and if even a distant relative has migraines, there is a 20 percent chance the child will also experience them.
“Because migraine is an often misunderstood disease, it is important to dispel myths that may contribute to the confusion,” said National Headache Foundation Executive Director Suzanne Simons. “It is our hope that this effort will further the understanding that migraine is neuro-biologic disease.”

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