Are you at risk for migraine headaches? It may not be a twist of fate that you are experiencing them right now. Something else may be going on that is a contributing factor.
Migraines can happen to anyone at any time. We know some of the triggers: stress (a biggie), lifestyle choices (smoking, drinking) and even allergies. But equally important are the factors you have no control over that predispose you to the condition.
Having predetermined risk factors for migraine headaches does not mean you will inevitably develop migraines. However, being aware of the risks will help you arm yourself with the knowledge that you need to prevent and treat migraines should they occur. Here are several risk factors that you need to know:
Family history – Does someone in your family suffer from migraines? Seventy to eighty percent of migraine sufferers also have a family member who is suffering or has suffered from migraines, too. If you are the child of parents who have had migraines, your risk is increased and you should talk to your parents about their experience. That way, you can set into place a plan for prevention. Your family history of migraines will also make the diagnostic process simpler.
Gender – If you are female, you are at greater risk to develop migraines. During childhood, boys and girls have the same chance of developing migraine headaches. However, once hormones take center stage, the risks to a female jump significantly. The culprit is estrogen spikes during a girl's puberty years. From then on, migraines will be more common in women than in men. The fluctuation of estrogen happens for many reasons right through a woman's life until the onset of menopause. There is no question about it that female hormones and migraines are linked.
Age – Migraines occur most often between the ages of 15 and 55. For whatever reason; stress, hormones, diet; those are the ‘hot' years for migraines to appear and increase in severity. However, before age 15, children are often misdiagnosed when they are actually experiencing migraines. There is no definite answer to the age risk, only a generalization. Overall, the statistics show that migraine occurrences drop for both men and women after the age of 40. However, women during the perimenopause years (about 45 to 55 years old) have reported an increase in migraine episodes. This is a very subjective risk factor but one that can be used as a diagnostic tool with care.
Hormonal changes – Hormones are are on a rampage during puberty, pregnancy, and perimenopause. Migraines are often reported in the first trimester of pregnancy when hormones are at the most volatile, and taper off as the pregnancy progresses. During the menstrual cycle each month, hormone fluctuations can cause migraines. Any stress that causes hormones to spike can cause a migraine to occur if a person is susceptible.
Ethnicity – North American Caucasians appear to have a higher risk of developing migraines than either African Americans or Asian Americans. Migraines are less often seen in Europe or South America and much less likely to be seen in Africa or Asia. Studies haven't connected this with any conditions in the environment, food supply, or medical knowledge, only genetics. These differences can help your doctor with a diagnosis.
If you have a family history of migraines, or have one or more of these risk factors, talk to your doctor about possible preventative measures. We know that the best way to handle migraines is to prevent them from happening. Discuss all your options to keep migraines from becoming a part of your life.