Migraine Triggers Medical Minute

By: Meredith TerHaar Email
By: Meredith TerHaar Email

Migraines strike anytime, anywhere. Something usually triggers them, but sometimes it's tough to tell what sets them off. Dr. Stewart Tepper treats headache pain at Cleveland Clinic. He says the most common trigger for migraine is stress.

"Migraine coexists with anxiety and if you follow people with anxiety across a lifetime they have five times the risk of migraine as somebody without anxiety and if you follow people with migraine over a lifetime they have five times the risk of anxiety as somebody without migraine," Tepper said.

Dr. Tepper says migraine is not caused by stress. Migraine is a neurologic illness which is triggered by stress. Other common triggers include alcohol and changes in the weather. Nitrates in processed meats, like hot dogs and lunch meat can also set one off. Chocolate, aged cheeses, and tomato-based products also top many trigger lists. Sometimes foods filled with preservatives, like MSG, can cause migraines, too.

Dr. Tepper says a woman's menstrual cycle may also play a role.

"Two-thirds of women who have migraine have a menstrual trigger of some sort," Tepper said.

Dr. Tepper adds that the combination of controlling your triggers and medication therapy is typically effective in keeping migraines from developing.

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