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Migraines More Likely if You Are Overweight

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Researchers from the Albert Einstein College of Medicine found that if you are overweight and you have migraines, they are more likely to be severe, and the greater your body mass index, the more frequently they will occur.

The researchers looked at patients (predominantly female) who had headaches 10 to 15 days per month. In the normal weight group, this amounted to 4.4 percent of the patients. In the overweight group, it rose to 5.8 percent, in the obese group it was 13.6 percent, and in the morbidly obese group it was 20.7 percent. So what you weigh has a direct relation on how many migraines you have and how severe they are. (1)

A later study found that people who were overweight were more likely to have depression and anxiety. This in turn could trigger more frequent and severe migraines. (2)

The American Academy of Neurology also found that those with larger waistlines were more likely to suffer with migraines than those who were slim. (3)

Although obese sufferers are routinely advised to lose weight for health-preserving reasons, it wasn’t known until recently whether this would actually diminish the symptoms of migraine.

Then, patients who had undergone gastric bypass operations reported to them that their migraines had reduced in frequency and severity, just six months after surgery. This provided evidence that weight loss is an important tool for the treatment and prevention of migraine. (4)

Why Are Body Fat and Migraines Linked?

Doctors are still looking into the reasons why overweight people get more migraines, but it may be because:

• Overweight people are more likely to be depressed and stress can trigger migraines.
• Overweight people are more likely to have a poor diet.
• Overweight people are more likely to suffer from hypertension (high blood pressure) which can trigger migraines.
• There may be a genetic element involved.

Ideas for Losing Weight

Skipping meals doesn’t usually work because it just makes you crave fat and want to eat more junk food when you do eat.

Add a Comment2 Comments

The morbidly obese had over 20% more chance to have migraines, the 1.4% you mentioned was just one section of the group. 

I'm certainly not saying that only heavier people get migraines, the study just said that they have an increased risk of migraines and the doctors think losing weight could stop migraine in some overweight people because they found that it did after people had weight loss surgery.

I used to be size 8 (I'm not sure what size that is in US sizes but it's very slim) until my son was born four years ago and I used to suffer with migraines, so I am not in any way criticizing or stereotyping larger people.


November 17, 2011 - 11:36am
EmpowHER Guest

This article infuriates me. I am overweight. I do not get migraines. My daughter is very thin. She does get migraines often. Just because you are overweight and get migraines does not mean that you will get fewer if you lose the weight. Thin people as the article points out also get migraines. 1.4% more who are overweight also get them. Not a big difference. Certainly losing weight for anyone is good but to say that your migraines will be fewer if you lose weight is misleading. How do you think someone who's very thin should feel about this?

November 17, 2011 - 11:27am
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We value and respect our HERWriters' experiences, but everyone is different. Many of our writers are speaking from personal experience, and what's worked for them may not work for you. Their articles are not a substitute for medical advice, although we hope you can gain knowledge from their insight.



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