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Health A-Z

Medical Content Created by the Faculty of the
Harvard Medical School

Prevention

Not all migraine headaches can be prevented. However, identifying your headache triggers can help to reduce the frequency and severity of migraine attacks. Common migraine triggers include:

  • Caffeine (either using too much or cutting back on regular use)

  • Certain foods and beverages, including those that contain tyramine (aged cheeses and meats, fermented beverages); sulfites (preserved foods, wines); and monosodium glutamate (MSG), a common flavor enhancer

  • Stress, or relief from stress

  • Hormone levels (menstrual cycles, hormone-containing medication such as birth control pills or estrogen)

  • Lack of sleep or disrupted sleep patterns

  • Travel or changes in weather or altitude

  • Overuse of pain-relieving medications

Even if you avoid all possible triggers, you are still likely to experience a migraine occasionally. And many people who get migraines have frequent and severe headaches no matter how well they avoid triggers.

Other methods some people have used to decrease their migraine attacks include biofeedback, yoga, acupuncture, massage and regular exercise.

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From Health A-Z, Harvard Health Publications. Copyright 2007 by the President and Fellows of Harvard College. All rights reserved. Written permission is required to reproduce, in any manner, in whole or in part, the material contained herein. To make a reprint request, contact Harvard Health Publications. Used with permission of StayWell.

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