Updated 19 August 2013

10 interesting head facts

You take your head for granted. But without it, you couldn’t smile, breathe, think, smell, hear or see. Or read this article. But there's much you can do to keep it in good shape.


You take your head for granted. But without it, you couldn’t smile, breathe, think, smell, hear or see. Or read this article. But there are a lot of things you can do to keep your brain – and your head – in good shape.

How many of these head facts did you know?

7 risk factors for Alzheimer’s. Risk factors for Alzheimer's disease include: age, specific gene types, family history, head injury, low education and high systolic blood pressure.

Turn your head on whiplash. If you happen to have your head turned either left or right when your car is rear-ended by another vehicle, it could help reduce your risk of whiplash injury, says a University of Alberta study. The study found that, in low speed rear-end crashes, people are much less likely to suffer whiplash injuries if they were looking to either side, instead of facing forward, at the time of impact.

Head lice blues. Head lice are a common scourge of school children of all social strata. These tiny grey parasites are about the size of a sesame seed, and can easily be seen, although they hide quickly when exposed to light. Their eggs, called nits, are barely visible whitish ovals cemented to hair shafts. Head lice are spread by personal contact and by shared brushes, combs, hats and other personal items. The most common treatment for head lice is to kill the adults with an insecticidal shampoo and to clear out the nits with a special fine-toothed comb.

ADHD in kids. It affects about 5 - 7% of all children and is six times more common in boys than in girls due to hereditary factors. Not all children with learning problems suffer from ADHD.

Missing teeth can cause headaches. Ever thought that a poorly aligned bite or missing teeth could lead to frequent headaches? Well, they can. Headaches are not always related to diet, stress and fatigue. Signs that your mouth may be causing your headaches include: Pain behind the eyes, sore jaw muscles, teeth grinding, clicking or popping of jaw joints, head or scalp that's painful to the touch, earaches or ringing in the ears, neck shoulder or back pain, dizziness.

90 minutes. That’s how long a cluster headache lasts. More men than women suffer from cluster headaches. These are intense headaches that often occur at the same time every day or every few days. These are debilitating, but usually don't last longer than 90 minutes. People who are heavy smokers or drinkers often suffer from cluster headaches. More women than men suffer from migraines.

Who gets depressed?One in five women - that’s the number of women who will experience a depressive episode during any given year. Depressive disorders are common and approximately 6-10% of the population will experience a depressive episode in any given year. More women than men are affected (2:1).

Prevent head injuries. Use seat belts and car child seats every time you drive, no matter how short the distance. Wear a helmet when taking part in sports or activities in which you may fall or knock your head, such as cycling or rock climbing, and never dive into murky or shallow water. Make your home fall-proof. Wear sensible shoes, especially if you are older.

3 types of tension headaches. Tension headaches are located in the area where the muscles of the neck and the head meet. Vascular headaches are the most severe and vary in their location, but are most often in the top half of the head. Organic headaches most often affect children and are often the result of infections in the sinus, ears, nose, brain, or because of brain tumours (less frequent).

Hangover blues. Hangover headaches are largely caused by acetaldehyde, which replaces the glucose molecules in the brain. Those with hangovers also suffer from dehydration and low blood sugar. Those with hangover headaches should drink large quantities of water or sugared tea – not sodas or coffee, as these can cause further dehydration.

(Susan Erasmus, Health24, updated June 2010)


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Headache expert

Dr Elliot Shevel is a South African migraine surgery pioneer and the founder and medical director of The Headache Clinic in Johannesburg, Durban and Cape Town, South Africa. The Headache Clinic is a multidisciplinary practice dedicated to the diagnosis and treatment of Primary Headaches and Migraines. Dr Shevel is also the main author of all scientific publications generated by his team. He recently won a high level science debate in which he was able to prove that the current migraine diagnosis and classification is not based on data. Tertiary Education - Dr Shevel holds both Dental and Medical degrees, and practises as a specialist Maxillo-facial and Oral Surgeon. Follow the Headache Clinic on Twitter@HeadacheClinic.

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