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MigraineMy-grain, Mee-grain, adha sar ka dard… however you say it, a migraine is a misery for people who are prone to it. Recent research indicates that women who experience migraines are two to three times more likely to suffer from strokes and heart disease than those who do not get them.

Considering the fact that migraines are pretty common – on any given day, one sees at least three patients in the clinic complaining of migraines – many people are unaware of the symptoms and how to handle them.

A migraine is essentially a neurological syndrome which manifests itself in a unilateral, pulsating headache which intensifies in bright light or during activity. The headache is usually accompanied by nausea, vomiting and tingling in arms and legs. Severe cases may even experience ‘auras’ or perceptual disturbances such as confusing thoughts, distorted vision and extreme sensitivity to light, sound and smell.

Physical or emotional stress, irregular sleep, hunger, certain foods (bananas, chocolate,  dairy products, nuts, and salty, processed and fermented foods), bright lights, loud noise and strong odours are the most common triggers of a migraine, while hormone fluctuations are an aggravating factor in women.

A worried patient once asked for hormones so that she would not have to go through menopause (a trigger) and subsequently these dreaded, debilitating headaches. As this is quite impossible, this is the advice I gave her and all those who suffer from migraines – prevention is the best way to handle these headaches. Rather than popping pills, learn to understand and identify ‘triggers’ that will help control the intensity and duration of the migraine.

You can also do the following:

1. Maintain a food journal to track offensive trigger foods and avoid them.

2. Regular exercise raises endorphin levels and reduces the intensity and frequency of migraines.

3. Rest is extremely important and with summer setting in don’t forget to keep well hydrated too.

Do not take medication without consulting your physician.

– Dr Samia Khan
The writer is Director, Health Awareness Society.

First published in the Health Section of The DAWN National Weekend Advertiser on April 14, 2013.