Headaches can be caused by a number of factors, including environmental and physical factors, as well as plenty that are not fully understood yet. However, by paying close attention to what you do, eat or drink before you experience a headache, you may be able to predict and even prevent its onset. The U.S. National Library of Medicine advises, “Understanding your headache triggers can help you avoid situations that cause your headaches.” In some cases, it may only take a small lifestyle change to avoid those nasty headaches that interfere with your daily life.
Food headaches. Headaches that are triggered by food are more common than you might think. Several preservatives, such as MSG, nitrate and nitrite, are known to trigger headaches. Mild allergies can also be a contributing factor.
Habits. Smoking is a known headache trigger. Other habits, such as drinking caffeine regularly or drinking too much alcohol, also trigger headaches. Habits that cause you to retain excess weight may also raise your blood pressure, and that, too, can cause headaches.
Exertion. On the flip side of weight-retaining habits, over-exertion — such as too much exercise — will trigger a headache. Many people experience headaches directly following vigorous exercise, sex and other similar activities that may change blood pressure and oxygen flow.
Stress. While the well-known tension headache may not actually be caused by stress, it is fairly certain that stress is a contributing factor. The body reacts to stress by releasing a number of body chemicals, clenching muscles, heightening blood pressure and pulse rate, and making other changes that are all known to trigger headaches.
Medications. A number of prescription medications are known to cause headaches simply because of the chemical reaction within the body. However, what a lot of people don’t know is that even using over-the-counter headache medication regularly can trigger headaches similar to those experienced with caffeine withdrawal — often leading people to take even more medication, resulting in still more headaches.