Women suffer disproportionately from migraine, but understanding how to manage the condition can make a world of difference.
A healthy brain is critically important to our well-being. Several neurological disorders, including multiple sclerosis and migraine, are more common in women. In this article, we’ll focus on migraine.
Migraine is three times as common in women as compared to men, and this is likely due in part to estrogen. Before puberty, migraine is equally common in boys and girls, but after puberty, girls are much more likely to have migraine. Many women have their first migraine attack shortly after puberty, and many will find that their migraine attacks stop/go away after menopause.
Migraine is a neurological disorder consisting of hypersensitivity to sensory stimuli (like bright lights) and recurrent attacks of headache. Although genes play an important role in determining whether someone will have migraine, many environmental factors help determine how frequent migraine attacks will be. For example, many with migraine say that stress makes their migraine attacks more frequent.
Behaviours that improve brain health can also reduce the tendency to have migraine attacks. These include regular exercise, a nutritious diet that’s low in processed foods, getting sufficient sleep, and healthy social interactions. For those with migraine, learning how to manage stress, including how to pace their activities to avoid unnecessary fatigue and stress, can also reduce the frequency of migraine attacks.
One third of women with migraine have a migraine aura (neurological symptoms, usually visual, that often occur before the headache starts), and they have a slightly increased risk of stroke. This risk can be reduced by not smoking, by treating high blood pressure if present, and by avoiding estrogen-containing oral contraceptives, especially those with high estrogen content.
In summary, it’s important for everyone to work toward a lifestyle that promotes brain health, and for people with migraine, this can be especially important.