Chronic migraine is a medical condition that is characterized by intense headaches that are accompanied by throbbing pain for at least 15 days per month. These migraines may cause nausea, vomiting and sensitivity to bright light and high decibel sounds and interfere with a person’s ability to perform daily tasks, further impacting their quality of life.
While 90-95% of people suffer from severe migraine during their lifetime, the condition is more common among women than in men. Women experience 2-3 times more recurrent headaches than men and their migraines mostly occur during adolescence. As hormones play an important role in the causation of migraine; therefore, women are more prone to it.
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Chronic migraine can be caused due to several factors such as lifestyle and genetic factors. Common symptoms among a person suffering from migraine include blurred vision, frequent yawning and drowsiness, one-sided headache, and vomiting. These symptoms of migraine come as episodic headaches.
What is the link between stress and migraine?
Stress is one the most common causes of migraine and acts as a trigger among many individuals who complain of headaches. The factors of stress leading to migraine can be endogenous (example, hormones) and psychological stressors such as deadline submissions at work). In women, the menstrual cycle is also a factor that causes stress. Other factors such as fasting, lack of sleep, fasting, anxiety, fear, anger, depression, alcoholic beverages, dietary components like chocolate, cheese can also worsen a migraine among women.
When the frequency of these stress inducing factors increases, the allostatic responses that are responsible for maintaining a stable state for the brain become overused and dysregulated. Hence, this ‘overuse’ of the brain may alter brain networks both functionally and structurally, causing migraine attacks.
How can women manage stress and reduce their risk of experiencing migraine attacks?
Women can incorporate effective stress management practices to avoid their risk of suffering from excruciating migraines. These strategies include –
- Getting enough sleep– Having proper sleep will increase your energy levels and will make you feel less irritable and overwhelmed.
- Listening to music – This helps in slowing the pulse and the heart rate which lowers the blood pressure, and reduces the levels of stress hormones.
- Exercising – Exercise reduces the levels of the body’s stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol and stimulates the production of endorphins, chemicals in the brain which act as natural painkillers and mood elevators.
- Healthy Diet – Consuming a healthy diet by incorporating leafy vegetables that can provide necessary vitamins, like Vitamin K can help in reducing stress levels, protect your arteries and promote proper blood clotting. A balanced diet also has dietary nitrates that help in reducing the blood pressure, decreases arterial stiffness and improves the function of cells lining the blood vessels.
- Meditation – This is another effective technique that can help you in managing stress. Meditation is essential for a sound sleep and helps in coping with symptoms of mental disorders like depression and anxiety.
With these effective steps, women can efficiently manage stress and can fight migraines to improve their overall health and mental functionality.
Authored by Dr. Anuradha H K, Consultant – Neurology, Aster CMI Hospital, Bangalore
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