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    Your Guide to Migraine Headaches

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    Migraines are powerful headaches that often happen with nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. They can last from 4 hours to 3 days, and sometimes longer.

    The National Headache Foundation estimates that 28 million Americans get them, women more than men. 

    Recommended Related to Migraines/Headaches

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    What Causes Migraines?

    Doctors don’t know the exact causes of migraines, although they seem to be related to changes in the brain as well as to genes that run in families. People can even inherit the triggers that give them migraines, such as fatigue, bright lights, weather changes, and others.

    For many years, scientists believed that migraines were caused by changes in blood flow in the brain. Many now think that they happen because of flaws in the brain passed down from parents.

    A migraine starts when overactive nerve cells send out signals that make the brain’s blood vessels narrow, then expand. That creates the sensation of pulsating pain.

    What Triggers a Migraine?

    Some common triggers include:

    • Stress. This is one of the most common triggers. When you’re stressed, your brain releases chemicals that can cause the blood vessel changes that can lead to a migraine.
    • Foods. Some foods and drinks, such as aged cheese, alcohol, and food additives like nitrates (in pepperoni, hot dogs, lunchmeats) and monosodium glutamate (MSG) may be responsible for up to 30% of migraines.
    • Caffeine . Getting too much caffeine or withdrawal from it can cause headaches when the level in your body abruptly drops. Blood vessels seem to get used to caffeine, and when you don’t have any, you may get a headache. Caffeine itself can be a treatment for acute migraine attacks.
    • Changes in weather. Storm fronts, changes in barometric pressure, strong winds, or changes in altitude can all trigger a migraine.
    • Having your period
    • Feeling very tired
    • Skipping meals
    • Changes to your sleep

    Migraines and Other Health Problems

    Are Migraines Hereditary?

    Yes, migraines seem to run in families. Four out of 5 people with the condition have other family members who have them, too. If one parent has a history of migraines, their child has a 50% chance of getting them, and if both parents have them, the risk jumps to 75%.

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