TROY — Headaches are an important health topic for women, participants in the Premier Health’s Women Wisdom Wellness series heard during a recent program on “Headaches and Hormones: Connecting the Dots” in Troy.
The series is designed to educate women about key health issues, said Diane Pleiman, chief operating officer of Upper Valley Medical Center. It is no secret, she said, that women tend to look out for everyone around them before themselves.
“It is vital to take care of you so you can be the best you can be for everyone else,” Pleiman said.
Women experience headaches more often than men and a history of a patient’s headaches is an important piece of information for any treatment effort, said Elizabeth Marriott, M.D., neurology and vascular neurology at the Premier Health Clinical Neuroscience Institute.
Among types of headache are primary, such as migraines that often have pain and nausea and cause light and sound sensitivity; tension, a band of pain across the forehead; secondary headaches, which have an underlying illness or injury; and facial pain, which can affect older women Dr. Marriott said.
Migraine headaches have a three-to- one prevalence in women, and one in four women will experience a migraine in her lifetime, she said.
Often more frequent and severe attacks can occur with fluctuations in a woman’s hormones and estrogen, with many saying the headaches are affected by their menstrual cycle and menopause, she said.
In treating headaches, “it is very important to have an idea of any kind of trigger” such as chocolate and artificial sweeteners, Dr. Marriott said.
Among advice that often is given to headache patients:
• Eat meals at regular times
• Go to sleep and wake up at the same time every day
• Reduce stress
• Relax with methods such as massage, exercise and deep breathing.
Katherine Bachman, M.D., obstetrician and gynecologist at Upper Valley Women’s Center, said women who experience migraines experience them differently than men. They usually are more chronic and longer in duration.
Being able to help track when headaches occur is helpful in the selection of medication, if appropriate, Dr. Bachman said. “It is a balancing act,” she said of any type of therapy. A regular menstrual cycle is key to medications working their best, she added.
Because there is no hormone product approved by the Food and Drug Administration to prevent or treat headaches, hormonal treatment is often trial and error, Bachman said.
Diane Birchfield, UVMC dietitian, said elimination diets have been used in treatments of headaches/migraines with patients asked to avoid foods such as chocolate, aged cheeses, alcohol, caffeine, and other items that could contribute to the pain.
A headache also could be a sign of hunger in some women, Birchfield said.
To learn more about Premier Health’s Women, Wisdom and Wellness topics, log on to www.premierhealth.com/Women-Wisdom-Wellness/Home/.