What’s Really Causing Your Headaches

The surprising factor that ups your risk by 81%

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Ahh, another migraine. Even occasional bouts of migraines are enough to send you screaming, Why meeee?! For the answer to that question, check your BMI—a new study in Neurology found obesity is associated with migraines at any frequency.

Episodic migraines, which occur less than 15 days per month, affect anywhere between 10-15% of the population. In the study of over 3,800 people, researchers from Johns Hopkins University discovered obese participants were 81% more likely to have migraines episodic migraines of any frequency and up to 89% for low frequency migraines as compared to participants of healthy weight.

Think a few migraines a month isn’t enough to get you on the right track to a healthy weight? Think again. “The more frequent your headaches the greater the risk of developing from an episodic to a chronic pattern,” says study author B. Lee Peterlin, DO, director of headache research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine. “The time for doctors to discuss the relationship between migraine and obesity is when patients are episodic—not chronic—so they can pay attention to the medications they prescribe that may affect their weight.” 

The research also revealed the link between episodic migraines is stronger in participants under the age of 50. The reason still remains a mystery (save for a theory about estrogen), researchers are more certain about the effects of weight loss on those headaches. “Some research has shown that aerobic exercise 3 days per week is associated with a reduction of headache frequency, says Dr. Peterlin. 

More from Prevention: Migraines Change Your Brain 44% 

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