Your weight may influence your risk of experiencing debilitating migraine headaches, a new review of study research suggests.
After evaluating 12 studies involving close to 300,000 people, researchers found that obese people were 27 percent more likely to have migraines than people who were at a normal weight. People who were underweight were also 13 percent more likely to have migraines.
“Extremes of weight such as obesity–a BMI of 30 or more, or being too thin–a BMI of less than 18.5–raises your risk for migraine,” says study author B. Lee Peterlin, DO, an associate professor of neurology and Director of Headache Research at Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore. (BMI or body mass index is based on height and weight.) The risk between obesity and migraines was higher for those below the age of 55 regardless of weight and for women, the research showed.
Being overweight isn’t currently considered a risk factor for migraine, but fat tissue is an endocrine organ, and like other endocrine organs, like the thyroid, too much and too little can cause issues. Changes in fat tissue that occur with weight gain or extreme weight loss may change the function and creation of many proteins and hormones and could make a person more vulnerable to a migraine or could trigger a migraine, at least in theory.
Fully 36 million people in the U.S. live with migraine headaches, which may come with nausea, vomiting, and extreme sensitivity to light and noise.
Taking steps to maintain a healthy weight may make a difference in migraine symptoms and patterns, say researchers.
Data from open-label studies looking at obese people who underwent [weight loss] surgery for health reasons besides migraine have suggested that migraine headaches are diminished in both frequency and severity by more than 50 percent from 1 to 6 weeks after surgery and subsequent weight loss. Also, data suggests that a low-carb diet or a diet high in omega 3 and low in omega 6 may improve headaches but it remains unclear whether it’s the diet or the weight loss.
In addition, aerobic exercise has also been shown to decrease headaches — but it can also be a double-edged sword because intense exercise may be a migraine trigger.
Healthy food choices, moderate exercise, and solid sleep are your best bets for keeping weight down and reining in headaches and migraines.
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