Video Q & A:

Triggers

Question:

What behaviors & habits can trigger migraines?

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

We're all guilty of bad habits -- smoking, drinking, over eating. So it's understandable some of us may be at risk of migraine more than others. But even a good habit can trigger a migraine. See how!

Transcript: The most common migraine triggers are hard to avoid: lack of sleep, a lousy diet and an occasional overindulgence in alcohol are part of our everyday lives. But if you’re at risk for migraines, these habits can cause a lot of trouble. According to Missouri State University researchers, a lack of sleep can throw off key proteins in the brain that suppress AND trigger chronic pain. When they are out of balance, a migraine can occur. And, if you’re living off fast food and frozen meals you’re taking in a lot of migraine-inducing preservatives, such as nitrates, that dilate blood vessels, a prime cause of migraine. Drinking red wine, beer, whiskey, or champagne floods your system with tyramine – a naturally occurring substance found in many foods that triggers migraine. Smoking can also trigger a painful migraine attack. It constricts blood flow and fills the blood with carbon monoxide and other chemicals, depriving the brain of oxygen. But it’s not until you’re done with your cigarette that the migraine sets in. Once you stop inhaling the smoke, your blood vessels dilate IMMEDIATELY, allowing blood and oxygen to rush to the brain. And that starts a migraine. Even a good habit can trigger a migraine. Researchers have found that extremely physically active people experience what are called “exercise induced migraines”. That’s because it is so EASY to become dehydrated when you exercise, and that causes constriction of the meninges, the thin layers of tissue that line the brain and spinal cord. Since the meninges are packed with pain receptors, a migraine sets in quickly. Knowing – and avoiding -- your migraine triggers is a key step in preventing painful attacks. More »

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