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Migraine Triggers: Your Personal Checklist

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Things that can trigger a migraine headache include foods, drinks, activities and exercise, medications, stress, too much or too little sleep, bright lights, hunger, odors, and hormones, among other factors.

To figure out what causes your migraines, print the list below. Then check for triggers at the first signs of a headache. Review the list every few weeks or months to see if you can spot a pattern. Chances are, the items that get the most checks are your triggers.

Recommended Related to Migraines/Headaches

Ocular Migraine Prevention

The first step to preventing migraines is to avoid triggers. These often include: Stress Smoking High blood pressure Hormonal birth control pills Exercise Bending over High altitude Dehydration Low blood sugar Excessive heat Although dietary triggers – such as caffeine, alcohol, and artificial sweeteners -- can cause other types of migraines; they seem less likely to trigger ocular migraines. Medications can also prevent ocular migraines. Calcium-channel blockers,...

Read the Ocular Migraine Prevention article > >

After you've narrowed down what affects you, talk about the list at your next doctor's visit.

Migraine Trigger Checklist

_____ Aged cheeses

_____ Alcohol (red wine, beer, whiskey, champagne)

_____ Artificial sweeteners 

_____ Caffeine (excess intake or withdrawal)

_____ Chocolate

_____ Citrus fruits

_____ Cured meats

_____ Dehydration

_____ Depression

_____ Diet (skipping meals or fasting)

_____ Dried fish

_____ Dried fruits

_____ Exercise (excessive)

_____ Eyestrain or other visual triggers

_____ Fatigue (extreme)

_____ Food additives (nitrites, nitrates, MSG)

_____ Lights (bright or flickering; sunlight, particularly glare)

_____ Lunch meats (cured with nitrites or MSG)

_____ Menstrual periods

_____ Medications

_____ Noise (excessive)

_____ Nuts

_____ Odors

_____ Onions

_____ Salty foods

_____ Sleep (too much, too little, other changes)

_____ Skipped meals

_____ Stress

_____ Television or movie viewing

_____ Weather (changing conditions)

_____ Others

WebMD Medical Reference

Reviewed by Melinda Ratini, DO, MS on September 19, 2014

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