Migraine triggers and treatment evolve throughout your life.
Part of managing migraines is identifying your triggers and learning how to limit your exposure to them. You might be surprised that as you go through life, your triggers change. Your body goes through changes that may make migraines more or less likely, and each chapter brings different life experiences that may shake up your routine. How do you prevent migraines when your life is constantly evolving?
Migraines Through the Lifespan
In your 20s, many people attend college and enter the workforce. Both of which might shake up their routine more than expected. Adjusting to new schedules may change your sleep, food, and hydration habits. Drinking alcohol is also common at this age, which can trigger migraines.
In their 20s, 30s, and 40s, parenthood may affect migraine management. Raising children shifts their responsibilities, makes their daily schedules tighter, and likely adds stress. The challenge of balancing all their roles may make it challenging to stick to migraine prevention habits. Pregnancy alone can cause hormonal changes that affect migraines.
By the 50s and beyond, many people with migraines may notice their triggers are shifting. Some women find that their migraines become less frequent after menopause—but not all women. Additionally, sleep disorders become more common at this age, which may affect sleep and trigger migraines. Other medical conditions like heart disease and type 2 diabetes may arise during this life stage, which may directly or indirectly affect migraine management.
Preventing Migraines at Any Age
The healthy habits to prevent migraines are the same at any age. That said, how you fit those habits into your life may vary depending on the stage. This includes:
1. Good sleep hygiene
Whether you’re a 20-year-old college student or a 31-year-old father of two, it’s important to get enough good-quality sleep. Remember, taking care of yourself to prevent migraines can help you better take care of others. (Here are the 12 daily habits of people who always sleep well.)
2. Eat regular, balanced meals
Many migraine experts believe that eating regularly is often more important than what you eat. If you have a schedule that makes it hard to have regular meals, have migraine-friendly snacks with you at all times.
3. Stay hydrated
Avoiding dehydration is one of the best prevention methods for migraines. This is easier for some than others. For example, a teacher might have to go hours at a time without using the bathroom. To cope with this, they might intentionally avoid drinking anything. This can lead to dehydration and trigger migraines.
If you know hydration is important for your migraine management, it might be worth talking to your boss or supervisor about accommodations at work that could help you drink enough water. This benefits everyone in the long run since it helps you avoid a migraine, which would affect your ability to work altogether.
4. Exercise regularly
Studies show that regular exercise can make migraines happen less often. Plus, when they do happen, they may be less intense. This might be because exercise helps with sleep and stress, and both can affect migraines.
5. Manage stress
Your stressors will evolve throughout the lifespan. You can’t always get rid of them, but you can learn how to cope with them. This includes exercise, social connections, meditation, breathing exercises, and other relaxing or pleasurable activities. If you have kids, practice stress management with them: It’s a skill that benefits everyone, and you're never too young to learn.
Getting Help to Prevent Migraines
For some people, migraines are sporadic, and they can manage episodes with the migraine prevention habits above. However, your migraines may be frequent and severe, even if you are doing your best to stick to good habits. If this is the case, you should reach out to your doctor. There are treatments that can help you reduce the frequency and severity of your migraines, so you can live a fuller life.
Noah Rosen, MD, is the director at the Northwell Health Headache Center.
- Effects of exercise on headaches and migraines. American Migraine Foundation. (Accessed on February 19, 2021)
- Menstrual migraine treatment and prevention. American Migraine Foundation, 2021. (Accessed on February 19, 2021)
- Migraine through a woman’s life. American Migraine Foundation, 2019. (Accessed on February 19, 2021)
- Navigating life with migraine in the workplace. American Migraine Foundation, 2019. (Accessed on February 19, 2021)
- Pregnancy and migraine: the impact. American Migraine Foundation, 2019. (Accessed on February 19, 2021)
- Preventive treatment of episodic migraine in adults. Waltham, MA: UpToDate, 2021. (Accessed on February 19 2021)