10 December 2008

Obesity may raise headache risk

Being overweight or obese may increase the likelihood of having severe headaches and migraines, new study findings suggest.


Being overweight or obese may increase the likelihood of having severe headaches and migraines, new study findings suggest. An increased prevalence of headache may be associated with being underweight as well.

In analyses of 7 601 adult men and women, Dr Earl S. Ford and colleagues at the US Centres for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta, report that being overweight or obese increased the likelihood of headache by 1.2- to nearly 1.4-times.

Ford's group investigated association between body mass index (BMI), the ratio between height and weight often used to determine the weight range an individual falls into, and headache among men and women, 20 years of age or older, who participated in the 1999 to 2002 National Health and Nutrition Examination Survey.

1 in 3 women suffer headaches
Overall, about 15% of the men and 28% of the women reported they had severe headaches or migraines during the previous 3 months, the researchers report in the medical journal Cephalalgia.

Nearly 35% of the study group were overweight (BMI between 25 and 30), another 30% were obese (BMI over 30), and 33% were in the normal weight range (BMI between 18.5 and 25).

In the underweight participants, just about 2% of the study population, Ford's group noted a two-fold higher prevalence of headache, but the limited number of underweight participants precluded further analysis.

After accounting for other factors potentially associated with increased headache risk such as gender, ethnicity, smoking, alcohol use, physical activity, diabetes and cholesterol levels, the overweight and obese subjects still had a greater headache frequency than did normal-weight participants.

Weight management for headaches
"If obesity increases the risk for headaches, weight management might be a useful approach in headache management," Ford and colleagues suggest.

They also recommend further analyses to establish "whether obesity is causally related to the development of headaches." - (Reuters Health)

SOURCE: Cephalalgia, December 2008

Read more:
Obesity can be a real headache
Obese more prone to chronic headaches

December 2008


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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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