Who is at the Greatest Risk of Suffering From Headaches?

By: Donald Saunders

Although the exact causes of various different types of headache are very much the subject of ongoing research there are some likely culprits and the generally accepted causes today vary according to whether we are talking about tension, cluster or migraine headaches.

Not surprisingly tension headaches are so named because they are thought to be caused by muscle tension. Accordingly, such simple actions as cradling a telephone handset between your ear and shoulder for extended periods can bring on a headache. In this case the muscles are both stretched and compressed in an unnatural way, which can have various results including inflammation and narrowing of the blood vessels.

Similarly, if you have a chronic habit, such as clenching or grinding your teeth which are seen in many people particularly during sleep, this too can lead to a tension headache.

Tension headaches also seem to run in families and about 40% of sufferers can trace a family history of the condition. When it comes to migraines genetics is also now thought to play an important role and a large, but as yet not quantified, number of migraine sufferers have a family history of the condition.

Depression too would appear to play a role and about 70% of people who suffer from chronic daily headaches also suffer from depression. Here of course the exact nature of the relationship is still unclear and while in some people it may well be depression which leads to a headache, in others it may well be the chronic headaches which result in depression.

People who suffer from insomnia or sleep apnea are also prone to headaches, although it is not entirely clear whether these two conditions cause headaches or whether there is an underlying cause for the combination of insomnia and headaches or sleep apnea and headaches.

Gender also plays a significant role with women being at greater risk from both tension and migraine headaches. Indeed, about three times as many women as men suffer from migraines. However, in the case of cluster headaches, which appear on a daily basis often for weeks or months at a time, men are affected far more than women.

Finally, there are a number of lifestyle factors which affect your likelihood of suffering from headaches and these include drinking too much alcohol (especially red wine), skipping meals, eating particular types of food (cheese is a common culprit here) and even stress.

When it comes to treating headaches there are clearly some factors which we can control (such as eating and drinking) and other which are outside of our control (such as genetics) but, the starting point in all cases is to get a professional diagnosis for your headache and not simply to assume, as many people do, that all headaches are basically the same.

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