Video Q & A:



What are the most common migraine triggers?

Expert:   Joshua Cohen, M.D., M.P.H. , St. Luke’s-Roosevelt Hospital Center »

Figuring out what triggers your migraines and then avoiding the triggers or taking steps to block their effect, may reducing your migraine frequency. Watch this to learn how!

Transcript: While migraine triggers vary from person to person, let’s look at five common triggers. Number 1: Sleep problems. Many people find that when they don’t get ENOUGH sleep or have erratic sleep schedules they are guaranteed to get HIT with a migraine. This is because two brain chemicals, serotonin and dopamine, are produced during the deepest stages of sleep. If you don’t fall into a deep sleep, your body doesn’t have a steady supply of them—and they are instrumental in controlling blood vessel dilation and pain perception. NUMBER 2 is FOOD. Lunch meats or canned goods PACKED with the preservatives known as nitrites and nitrates can trigger an attack for SOME people. Others react to an amine called tyrosine that is found naturally in aged cheese or nuts. And SOME people cannot tolerate artificial sweeteners. Sometimes it’s what you don’t eat that sets off a headache. Skipping meals and eating erratically are very common migraine triggers. To see if you have food triggers and what they are, keep a food diary for a couple weeks. You’ll be surprised at what it can reveal. Environmental factors are the THIRD common trigger. Bright lights, loud sounds and strong odors often set off a migraine—and they can be painful irritants once a migraine sets in. These type of triggers stimulate sensitive nerve cells in the eyes, nose, ears and brain. Number 4 is dehydration, which can happen with intense physical exertion and exposure to heat. Dehydration leads to the constriction of the meninges, which are the thin layers of tissue that line the brain and spinal cord. And since the meninges are packed with pain receptors, you can bet a migraine will flare up. Number 5 is estrogen. It’s one reason that migraines are more common in women than men. Researchers have found that when a female’s estrogen level fluctuates, she’s likely to experience migraines. This may happen during each monthly cycle or during pregnancy or menopause. Figuring out what triggers YOUR migraines and then avoiding the triggers OR taking steps to BLOCK their effect, may reducing your migraine frequency. More »

Can't Find an Answer? Send us your question »