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Reviewed 3/29/2022

Headache triggers: True or false?

A headache is the most common type of pain people experience. It's one of the biggest reasons for missing work or school. But knowing the triggers that can bring on headaches may help you prevent them from happening. How much do you know about preventing headaches?

True or false: Drinking water throughout the day may help you avoid a headache.

True. Dehydration can lead to a migraine headache—an intense, throbbing kind of pain that can last for a few hours or as long as several days.

True or false: Women are more likely than men to get migraines, and they can be triggered by hormonal changes.

True. The rise and fall of female hormones—during pregnancy, menopause or menstruation—is a known migraine trigger. About 3 out of every 4 women who get migraines say their headaches are related to their menstrual cycle.

True or false: It's uncommon for headaches to be caused by stress.

False. Tension headaches are the most common type of headaches, and they are often triggered by stress. Other triggers include anxiety, fatigue, depression and anger.

True or false: Oversleeping is a good way to avoid triggering a headache.

False. Changes in sleep patterns can act as triggers, including sleeping too much or too little. Similarly, too much caffeine can trigger a headache, but so can caffeine withdrawal.

True or false: Taking pain medications can cause headaches.

True. Taking ibuprofen, aspirin or other pain-relieving medications too often—or in higher doses than is recommended—can lead to what's called a rebound headache. Not only do the medications stop easing your pain, they begin causing it.

Headache triggers aren't the same for everyone. That's why it's a good idea to talk to your healthcare provider about a headache diary. It can help you and your provider track your headaches and identify what causes them. Once you know what your triggers are, you can try to avoid them and reduce the amount of headaches you get.

Sources: American Academy of Family Physicians; American Headaches Society; National Headache Foundation; National Institutes of Health

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