Home > Prevention > Migraines and Obesity

Migraines and Obesity

By: Ian Murnaghan BSc (hons), MSc - Updated: 12 Jul 2010 | comments*Discuss
 
Migraines Headaches Obesity Weight Loss

There is still controversy regarding the role obesity plays in the occurrence of migraines and other headache forms, but new research suggests that obesity can make migraine headaches more frequent and intense.

Obesity refers to an excess amount of body fat beyond a set standard determined for good health. Weight gain generally occurs when the size or number of fat cells in an individual increases.

A common method of determining obesity is the body mass index (BMI). To calculate your BMI, you divide your weight in kilograms by the square of your height in metres. A BMI of 25 to 29.9 tends to indicate that a person is overweight and one over 30 usually suggests that a person is obese. Do keep in mind that muscle weighs more than fat, however, so BMI is merely one tool for assessing obesity. Body fat measurements and other tools will be used by your doctor to decide if you are overweight or obese. In a recent study, it was found that as a person's BMI increased above a healthy range, the frequency and intensity of headaches similarly increased.

Does Obesity Trigger Headaches?

The actual prevalence of migraine headaches doesn't seem to be correlated with BMI but on the other hand, BMI is thought to affect the frequency, severity and symptoms of a migraine. An important point to note is that the lifestyle factors that can lead to obesity are ones that are also known to trigger headaches.

Poor sleep can occur alongside obesity and sleep is a known headache trigger so it can't be assumed that obesity directly causes headaches. Individuals who are overweight or more specifically, obese, often suffer from sleep apnoea, where breathing is momentarily halted during sleep. Sleep apnoea has been linked to headaches. Obesity may therefore affect your headaches indirectly from its influence on other bodily functions. It is thought that people who are obese often have unhealthy lifestyle habits such as poor nutrition, lack of exercise and increased stress, all of which can trigger headaches.

Should You Lose Weight?

Based on current research, it would appear that if you are in the overweight or obese category, it is wise to lose weight, not only for your headaches but to experience other health benefits such as the reduced incidence of various diseases. A doctor or dietitian best determines whether or not you are overweight. Some of the foods that tend to trigger migraines, such as wine and chocolate, are high caloric foods so reducing consumption of these can be particularly helpful in preventing headaches.

A concern is that an obese person who suffers from migraines may find it difficult to exercise because of the headache pain. Exercise may have to start out quite slowly and gently before progressing to more cardiovascular types of exercise.

Unfortunately, some of the medications used for head pain may also prompt weight gain and an increased appetite and you may need to adjust your diet and exercise plan accordingly.

The next step in research is to actually examine whether migraine and headache frequency and severity decreases as weight is reduced. Hopefully, the findings will provide valuable information into the connection between obesity and migraines, which means greater treatment options for migraine sufferers.

You might also like...
Share Your Story, Join the Discussion or Seek Advice..
Why not be the first to leave a comment for discussion, ask for advice or share your story...

If you'd like to ask a question one of our experts (workload permitting) or a helpful reader hopefully can help you... We also love comments and interesting stories

Title:
(never shown)
Firstname:
(never shown)
Surname:
(never shown)
Email:
(never shown)
Nickname:
(shown)
Comment:
Validate:
Enter word:
Topics
Latest Comments
  • Matt
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I have a scapular rib adhesion (washboard syndrome) I allso suffer from neck pain because of this. Osteopathic treatment is…
    19 November 2017
  • Shine
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I have always pain my scalp ad dry all scalp from the time i am working kuwait dont know why bu its always pls help me
    15 November 2017
  • Tiano
    Re: Headaches During The Night
    @Frances - if your headache is persistent, then it would be best if you visited your doc, just to make sure everything is OK <3
    10 November 2017
  • Frances
    Re: Headaches During The Night
    I been having headache for the pass two weeks
    10 November 2017
  • Sjvz
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    I have a sharp sting pain on top left corner of my scalp that shoots down to my throat, started today and when I press on it then…
    8 November 2017
  • Seiboi
    Re: Numbness in Head With Pain and Dizziness: What Can it Be?
    I have severe headache blurred vision and dizziness 24hours. I can't even performed simple…
    6 November 2017
  • Katie\g
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    @Ans01 - if you're having problems breathing and you passed out as a result, then you need to see a doctor anyway.
    3 November 2017
  • Ans01
    Re: Headaches After Head Injuries
    Earlier today I was having trouble breathing I went to get me something to drink in the kitchen and then I got really dizzy and…
    2 November 2017
  • sany
    Re: Scalp Pain: What Causes It?
    my problem is more pain in head skin...some times the back right sight become more pain...on the other hand the full body affeted…
    28 October 2017
  • Mich
    Re: What is a Spinal Tap Headache?
    Hoping someone can give me help/advice. Around 9/10 weeks ago I caught a viral infection which lasted 2 weeks. I then got a…
    26 October 2017
Further Reading...
Our Most Popular...
Add to my Yahoo!
Add to Google
Stumble this
Add to Twitter
Add To Facebook
RSS feed
You should seek independent professional advice before acting upon any information on the HeadacheExpert website. Please read our Disclaimer.