Obesity and Episodic Migraines

by Dr. Jan Dommerholt, PT, DPT, MPS, DAAPM

Episodic and chronic migraines are common kinds of headaches. While chronic migraines get much attention, only about 2% of the general population suffers from chronic migraines. On the other hand, episodic headaches, defined as a condition with up to 14 migraine episodes per month, are much more common with a prevalence of 12% to 15%.

A recent study found that obesity, which is an increasingly common condition throughout Western societies, appears to be linked to episodic migraine headaches, especially in women or younger people under 50 years of age. Interestingly, the risk of episodic migraine did not increase in obese men over 50 years of age.

It is not entirely clear how obesity and episodic migraine headaches are related to each other. Some researchers speculated that the hypothalamus may play a key role. The hypothalamus is the part of the brain, that regulates whether someone wants to eat. The hypothalamus is activated during migraine headaches and is also associated with obesity. Others suggested that people with episodic migraines may live more sedentary lifestyles, leading to becoming overweight and obese. It is also conceivable that certain inflammatory proteins, that are commonly seen with obesity, may be linked to episodic migraines.

In summary, now that there is a link between obesity and episodic migraine headaches, especially in women, it is important that people suffering from episodic migraines participate in regular exercise to control their weight, and follow healthy and balanced diets.

Dr. Jan Dommerholt
Fellow member of the CatchMyPain medical advisory board.
See his bio.

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