Science Daily suggests that headaches can cause humans to be inefficient to the extent that it costs more than $31 billion and 12 million doctor appointments yearly. As more studies are conducted on headaches, it is now believed that counseling behavioral changes in lifestyle is more effective, in terms of cost and results than medical procedures.
Following are 10 lifestyle habits that contribute to headaches and how to alter them:
- Anxiety and Depression:
Anxiety is the primary cause of headaches and can lead to higher levels of clinical depression. Headaches, in this case, are a symptom of DSM-5 depression and the pain can be often intense. Immediate way out of anxiety is the famous 4-7-8 breathing exercise, by Dr. Andrew Weil, which helps in lowering heart rate to normal and increasing relaxation.
Inhale through your nose until 4 seconds, hold your breath for 7 seconds, and finally exhale slowly in just 8 seconds. Medically, one of the most common antidepressants include SSRIs, however, counseling with psychological wellbeing practitioners is a more effective method to reduce anxiety and depression.
- Vision-related stress:
Prolonged stress on the eyes, due to exposure to computers, of more than 5 hours can result in headaches. Take a break from the computer and go for a walk outside. Furthermore, use bulbs close to natural light and glare shielding on computers or use glare shielding spectacles.
- Sleeping Patterns:
Studies on sleeping patterns concluded that 80% of people experience chronic headaches because of irregularity in sleeping patterns. Reduce your inability to sleep by making a proper nighttime and sleep routine, at least 7-8 hours of sleep. Switch off electronic devices at least an hour prior to sleep. Regulate caffeine intake and have light meals around sleep hours. Regulating sleeping patterns is a long-term natural remedy for decreasing anxiety, depression and headaches.
Your nutrition choices determine your health as certain foods such as alcohol and dairy trigger headaches usually. However, trigger foods also change with your gender, weight, age. Keep track and pen down your food intake and headache to deduce any pattern.
Exposure to the noisy environment can tighten ear muscles and keep up with long hours of noise can make the ears and eventually the brain to be stressed out causing headaches. Move to quiet places or carry earplugs to reduce the effect of noise.
- Un-administered medication:
Misuse or overdose of some medicines is the third most frequent cause of headaches. Consult your doctor if you notice a pattern between your medication and any discomfort due to headaches.
- Strenuous Physical Activity:
Vigorous exercise can lead to two different types of headaches; primary and secondary exercise headaches. Primary exercise headaches however harmless are usually cured through medication. On the other hand, Secondary Exercise Headaches, requiring urgent medical attention, is a cause of another, more critical medical conditions such as brain injury, brain tumor, or coronary artery disease. Know your exercise routine and make changes accordingly. Avoid workouts in extreme temperatures and add breaks after intervals while staying hydrated throughout the routine.
- Hormonal imbalance:
Right before the start of the menstrual cycle among women, a decrease in estrogen levels can lead to headaches. Natural ways to keep hormones in balance include decreasing sugar intake, hydration, and using 4-7-8 breathing exercise. Otherwise, use medically administered supplements especially CoQ10 and 5-HTP as advised by Dr. Sara Gottfried. Furthermore, postpartum depression also results in anxiety, stress, and hormonal imbalance. According to Healthline, 39% of women have headaches within one week after childbirth.
- Improper body posture:
Unnecessary tension in muscles due to incorrect body posture can negatively affect breathing, this results in lower than normal oxygen intake. Headaches caused by improper posture are categorized as tension and neck-related headaches. The foundation of a good posture includes; pelvis in a neutral position, shoulders low and slightly tilted forward, jaw parallel to ground, and ears above the shoulder.
Low fluid levels in your brain cause it to shrink and reduce in size while receding away from the skull, leading to a headache. To offset this, you should drink plenty of fluids and avoid caffeinated drinks. If you are a gym enthusiast, make sure you make up for the excessive sweat, as your water requirements are greater than a person who normally does not work out.
In general, the cause of headaches can be different for everyone therefore if you have chronic headaches, record and make a journal of your workout habits and food intake to discern patterns. Also, make active changes to your lifestyle and note the effects it has on your conditions. Lastly, consult your doctor and communicate the patterns you have noticed and ask for any treatment and lifestyle changes, if necessary.