Video Q & A:

Triggers

Question:

What triggers migraines in the elderly?

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

If you're over the age of 65 chances are you'll find that while you may have fewer migraines in a month, you have a wider array of triggers. Watch this to see what they are!

Transcript: If you STILL have migraine headaches once you reach the age of 65, you will notice that over time the triggers may have shifted slightly. And if you are in the small percentage of people who keep having migraines PAST middle age, you could be dealing with a whole new set of troublemakers. In your 20’s you may have experienced migraines a few times a month and they might have been set off by loud sounds, bright lights, lack of sleep and entirely too much alcohol – the basic ingredients in a big party. Or they may have been in sync with your menstrual period. Over the age of 65, however, chances are you’ll find that while you may have fewer migraines in a month, you have a WIDER array of triggers. Migraines that come on as a result of exercise or physical activity occur more often in the elderly. This is because they are often less active then they were years ago. So an increase in strenuous activity – such as climbing a few flights of stairs -- can trigger discomfort and pain. If you also have some respiratory challenges, coughing and straining just adds to the aggravating conditions. FALLS are another migraine trigger in the elderly. Approximately 30 percent of people older than 65 fall at least once a year. And if you hit your head, a trauma-related migraine can occur. But the most severe migraine trigger that affects older folks is stroke. According to a study of 163 patients, women with a history of prior, recurrent migraines were more likely to have one associated with stroke. In these cases, the migraine began before the stroke or at its onset. The patients described them as the worst headache of their life, noting throbbing and stabbing sensations. Remember though, past the age of 70, only 5 percent of women and 2 percent of men have to endure migraines. More »

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