Mar 30, 2015 9:00 AM

Author: Office of Public Affairs

From mild annoyance to debilitating pain, almost everyone has experienced a headache. “About 90% of headaches are in the migraine family,” says Kathleen Digre, MD, chief of the headache and neuro-ophthalmology division in neurology at University of Utah Health. “Affecting 20 percent of women and 10 percent of men, migraines are more common than asthma and diabetes combined.”

A migraine is a moderate to severe headache with any of these features: pulsing or throbbing and associated with light or sound sensitivity and nausea or vomiting. “Knowing what triggers migraines is important,” Digre says. Here are four common triggers.

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Common food and drink triggers are aged cheeses, processed meats, sugar and red wine. “Limit soda and caffeinated beverages, and drink 64 to 80 ounces of water daily,” Digre says.


Light, such as the glare on a computer or TV screen or fluorescent lights, can trigger a headache. Strong odors, loud sounds and a change in weather may also play a role. “Minimize exposure to triggers or ask your doctor for help managing them,” Digre says.


Lack of sleep can trigger migraines. “Get plenty of rest and give your brain some downtime,” Digre suggests. “And make sure to exercise when you are migraine-free.”


Stress can trigger a headache or make an existing one worse. Practice relaxation techniques such as yoga or meditation to help manage stress.

Hormones and certain medications may also trigger migraines.

“If you experience recurrent headaches or if the pain keeps you from enjoying life, schedule an appointment with your doctor,” Digre says. “A diagnosis will help determine what’s causing the headache. Medication and treatment options are available to help.”

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