Headache or cephalalgia, is one of the most common forms of pain encountered in your daily life. Almost everyone suffers from headaches at least once in their life. People who suffer from headaches, once in a while usually neglect it. But there are people who suffer from severe forms of frustrating headaches frequently.

Headaches are usually caused or triggered by lifestyle factors such as stress, poor or disturbed sleep patterns, excessive smoking or consumption of alcohol, poor posture, and skipped meals. While a primary headache does not last for long and can be treated with enough rest, the following headaches are considered to be serious:

  • First-time headache in an elderly

  • A headache associated with vomiting

  • A headache associated with visual symptoms (for example, sudden eye pain or blurred vision)

  • A headache associated with other neurological problems including neck stiffness, etc.

It is obvious that these serious headaches need urgent medical attention.

However, to minimize the common ones, simple lifestyle modifications can be made. The following recommendations will help in reducing the severity as well as the frequency of your headaches.

5 Lifestyle Changes to Get Rid of a Headache

1. Get adequate sleep and stay stress-free.

The two most triggers for a headache are lack of sleep and stress. 

Lack of sleep, either sleeping less or more frequently causes a tension headache. Establish a good sleep hygiene' - go to sleep the same time every night, do not have a heavy meal before sleeping or read a light book before you sleep. 

Avoid taking stress as much as possible. Staying stress-free helps reduce the chances of having a headache, especially a tension headache. 

Tension headaches can occur in people of all age groups but are commonly observed in women. Triggers of tension headaches include eye strain, emotional or physical stress, excessive intake of caffeine or alcohol.

2. Drink plenty of water.

Water is important for your overall health, but it's especially important if you get migraine and dehydration headaches. Migraine is the commonest cause of headache in the world. If you are suffering from recurrent attacks of moderate to severe throbbing pulsating headache which incapacitates you and is associated with nausea or vomiting, then you might be suffering from migraine. 

On the other hand, when you become dehydrated (when there is excessive loss of fluids from your body), your brain tissue loses water, causing the brain to shrink and pull away from the skull. The pain receptors surrounding the brain are thus triggered, leading to a dehydration headache.

It is true that in your busy schedule, you sometimes forget to drink adequate water. Research shows that drinking water during a headache or migraine attack can help it from getting worse, and can make it go away if it was caused by dehydration. 

3. Avoid certain foods.

Certain foods like cheese, chocolate, very heavy and oily meals, and sweets can cause headaches in some people. 

  • Cheese, especially aged ones, are high in tyramine, a natural chemical found in some foods. Tyramine can cause headaches by constricting and dilating blood vessels.

  • Chocolate contains both caffeine and beta-phenylethylamine, which may trigger headaches in some people. In the case of a migraine, chocolate is known to be a common trigger because chocolate also contains tyramine.

  • Fatty and fried or oily foods are known to cause a migraine headache. High levels of certain fats in your blood lead to the production of prostaglandins (a group of active fats). Prostaglandins can cause your blood vessels to dilate, potentially leading to migraines and increased pain.

  • Eating too many sweets or sugar-heavy foods or heavily processed foods can cause a spike in your blood sugar levels, which can cause headaches. Sugar-related headaches are not uncommon.

If any of the above foods trigger a headache in you, then is it advisable to avoid eating them. However, do not skip your meals. Skipping a meal or eating excessively - both can again lead to headaches. You must eat regularly, and in moderation.

4. Avoid going out in the hot sun.

If bright sunlight gives you a headache, you may actually be experiencing a light-sensitive migraine attack or a heat headache. Heat headaches often occur when the weather is hot or due to prolonged exposure to the sun. 

Carry out your outdoor activities in the morning or evening. If it is unavoidable to step out in the sun, cover your head, wear dark glasses and carry a bottle of water with you to avoid dehydration.

5. Engage in regular physical activity.

Research shows that regular exercise can reduce the frequency and intensity of headaches, especially migraines. When you exercise, your body releases endorphins, your body’s natural painkillers, and ‘feel-good’ hormones. Exercise reduces stress and helps you sleep better at night. 

Doing moderate physical activity for 30 minutes daily is recommended.

Many of the lifestyle-related headaches can be prevented by making these minor adjustments to your daily routine. If you experience frequent headaches, consult your physician for an appropriate diagnosis and treatment.

Disclaimer: This article is written by the Practitioner for informational and educational purposes only. The content presented on this page should not be considered as a substitute for medical expertise. Please "DO NOT SELF-MEDICATE" and seek professional help regarding any health conditions or concerns. Practo will not be responsible for any act or omission arising from the interpretation of the content present on this page.