11 Surprising Headache Triggers
What's to blame?
Could it be something you ate? Not enough sleep? Our comprehensive list just might help you figure out what's really causing your headache.
In a study, researchers found that obese women (a body mass index of 30) had a 35% greater risk of headaches than those with a lower BMI. Severe obesity (BMI of 40) upped the chances to 80%.
Certain traits, including being rigid, reserved, and obsessive may make you headache-prone. If that sounds like you, it could be time to sign up for relaxation training. Try these fast ways to beat stress in 15 minutes or less.
The big O
In one survey, 46% of headache sufferers said sex had triggered a headache. Usually, this is an overexertion headache (like joggers and weightlifters sometimes get); you may feel a dull pain that builds during foreplay or get a sudden headache around orgasm (more likely in men). For most folks, though, sex headaches are harmless.
RELATED: 20 Weird Facts About Sex and Love
That three-day vacay
Weekend or "let-down" headaches can happen when you take a break from your routine, says Alexander Mauskop, MD, founder and director of the New York Headache Center and co-author of What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Migraines. Ease into the change by keeping your sleep time as normal as possible—you’ll end up feeling more rested than if you stay in bed until noon.
Your bathroom paint job
It’s not just arguing over paint colors that can give you a headache; fumes from traditional paints can trigger pain. Many companies now make nearly odorless, low-VOC (volatile organic compound) formulas, like Benjamin Moore’s Natura line or Devoe’s Wonder Pure.
You don't need to be super-thirsty to be dehydrated. One of the big signs of dehydration is a headache, along with sour mood, decreased energy levels, and inability to focus. Rather than guzzling down glass after glass of water, try getting more water from the foods you eat, says John La Puma, MD, author of ChefMD’s Big Book of Culinary Medicine. "I’d love it if people got more water from eating fruits and vegetables because then they’d get all the other good things that come with them," he says.
We know you’re busy, but hunger is a common headache trigger.
RELATED: 21 Natural Ways to Prevent and Treat Headaches
Too much caffeine
A little can help headaches but too much can trigger them, New York City neurologist Audrey Halpern, MD, says. If caffeine is causing your pain, gradually cut back until you have caffeine no more than two days a week.
A Swedish study showed that those who were inactive were more likely to get headaches than those who worked out. Aim for 20 to 30 minutes of cardio a day, five days a week, to relieve stress, send blood to the brain, and get feel-good endorphins flowing. Exercise may be a trigger for some people, so consult your doc first.
One large study says those who slept an average of six hours a night tended to have significantly more severe and more frequent headaches than those who got more z’s.
RELATED: 11 Signs You're Sleep-Deprived
Don’t feed your headache
Everyone reacts differently, but some foods are known to trigger headaches for many people—and others (especially those rich in magnesium) seem to help prevent them.
Eat: Spinach, tofu, oat bran, barley, fish oil, olive oil, white beans, sunflower and pumpkin seeds
Avoid: Red wine, beer, MSG, chocolate, aged cheese, saurkraut, processed meats like pepperoni, ham, and salami