Migraine headaches are caused by electrical activity in the brain responsible for pain and light sensitivity. Many migraine patients are familiar with the discomfort of migraine phases. Migraine pain makes it difficult for many people to function in their everyday lives.
Recently, researchers have been trying to understand why migraines have become such a serious women’s health issue and why they tend to worsen with age.
Migraines in Women May Be Hormone-Related
Female migraine sufferers report longer-lasting, more frequent headaches. This may be due to female sex hormones that increase after puberty. Estrogen levels and progesterone may be a primary cause of migraines.
Hormonal levels change throughout a woman’s life. Many women report significant migraine relief during pregnancy and menopause. Experts don’t fully understand the connection between hormones and migraines in women. Yet ongoing research has been beneficial for identifying effective treatment of migraines.
The Age and Migraine Connection
The age group suffering from migraines most are women of child-bearing age or those between the ages of 30 and 40.
A woman’s menstrual cycle is often closely tied to the frequency and severity of her migraine symptoms. More than half of women who experience migraines report menstrual-related increases in migraine symptoms. After puberty, women and girls begin to report more frequent migraine headaches than men.
The risk of developing migraine headaches decreases after the age of 40. For some patients, migraine symptoms including light and noise sensitivity also decrease with age.
Preventing Migraines in Women
While hormones and genetics increase a woman’s risk for developing migraines, many women have unique lifestyle stressors that often make migraine symptoms worse.
Identifying migraine triggers is an important part of preventing and managing migraine symptoms. Migraine triggers can include diet, lifestyle habits and environmental stressors. Changes in hormone levels can impact a woman’s stress response, increasing her risk for migraines.
Some migraine triggers include:
- Anxiety and stress
- Bright lights
- Changes in the weather
- History of childhood abuse
- Loud noises
- Processed foods, particularly those that are high in sodium or contain nitrates
- Strong odors
- Sugar substitutes such as aspartame
It’s common to have more than one migraine trigger. Keeping track of headaches can help identify which triggers are most likely to cause a migraine. Taking notes about these details may help identify triggers:
- Food and drink 24 hours prior to the migraine
- Location and activity before the migraine started
- Menstrual cycle or menopausal symptoms
- What time the migraine began
Talk to a Professional
Get support managing migraines. Schedule an appointment with a primary care provider at St. Elizabeth Physicians in Northern Kentucky and Southeastern Indiana.