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Risk Factors for Headache

A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop headaches with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing headaches. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk Factors for Tension Headache

Specific Lifestyle Factors

Emotional stress, fatigue, or anger can result in tension headaches. Other risk factors include smoking and having too little physical activity, and too little sleep.

Medical Conditions

Certain conditions are associated with tension headaches and tightening of the muscles in the neck, face, and scalp. These include:

Risk Factors for Migraine

Specific Lifestyle Factors

Lifestyle triggers can vary from person to person. Some reported triggers include

  • Skipping meals
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Emotional events
  • Smoking
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Excessive alcohol use and hangovers
  • Loud or sudden noises

Certain foods can also trigger a migraine. Keep a food diary to help you learn which foods or food additives may cause your migraines. Triggers may include

  • Aspartame
  • Caffeine or caffeine withdrawal
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Aged cheeses
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Certain fruits and nuts
  • Fermented or pickled goods
  • Cured or processed meats

Medications

Use of certain medications may trigger a migraine, including:

  • Birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy; there may be some relationship between female hormones and migraines
  • Headache remedies used on a daily or near daily basis

Age

The highest incidence is in teenage years.

Gender

Migraine headaches are more common among females.

Genetic Factors

Migraines seem to run in families.

Other

Migraines may be triggered by blood vessels overreacting to a variety of factors, including:

  • Menstruation
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in altitude, weather, or time-zone
  • Glaring lights
  • Perfumes or other odors

Risk Factors for Cluster Headache    TOP

Specific Lifestyle Factors

Cluster headaches seem to occur more often in smokers.

Medical Conditions

Having head surgery or a head injury increases your risk of cluster headache.

Age

Risk is greatest between 20-50 years old.

Gender

Males are at greater risk for cluster headaches than females.

Risk Factors for Sinus Headache    TOP

Medical Conditions

Certain medical conditions increase nasal secretions and cause swelling in the tissues lining the nasal passages. These changes lead to nasal congestion and stuffiness. The nasal passages become blocked and normal drainage cannot occur. Secretions that are trapped in the sinuses may become infected with bacteria or, rarely, fungus. The swollen tissues or infection may create pain and pressure.

Conditions that increase sinus pressure and increase your risk of sinus headache include:

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References

Bigal ME, Lipton RB. Modifiable risk factors for migraine progression. Headache. 2006;46(9):1334-1343.
Brandes JL. The influence of estrogen on migraine: a systematic review. JAMA. 2006;295(15):1824-1830.
Cluster headache. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116292/Cluster-headache. Updated February 16, 2016. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Headache. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116292/Cluster-headache. Updated May 22, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Headache—frequently asked questions. National Headache Foundation website. Available at:
...(Click grey area to select URL)
Accessed October 2, 2017.
Merikangas KR. Update on the genetics of migraine. Headache. 2012;52(3):521-522.
Migraine in adults. EBSCO DynaMed Plus website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T114718/Migraine-in-adults. Updated August 9, 2016. Accessed October 2, 2017.
NINDS headache information page. National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke website. Available at: https://www.ninds.nih.gov/Disorders/All-Disorders/Headache-Information-Page. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Tension-type headache. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated February 8, 2017. Accessed October 2, 2017.
Tension-type headache. EBSCO DynaMed website. Available at: http://www.dynamed.... Updated September 15, 2016. Accessed September 30, 2016.
8/27/2010 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116292/Cluster-headache: Robberstad L, Dyb G, Hagen K, et al. An unfavorable lifestyle and recurrent headaches among adolescents: The HUNT Study. Neurology. 2010;75(8):712-717.
1/2/2014 DynaMed Plus Systematic Literature Surveillance http://www.dynamed.com/topics/dmp~AN~T116292/Cluster-headache: Watemberg N, Matar M, Har-Gil M, Mahajnah M, et al. The influence of excessive chewing gum use on headache frequency and severity among adolescents. Pediatr Neurol. 2014;50(1):69-72.
Last reviewed October 2017 by EBSCO Medical Review Board Rimas Lukas, MD
Last Updated: 12/20/2014

 

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