Tag Archives: Stress

Straight No Chaser: Your Stress Management Plan

The path to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” isn’t as simple as the old song suggests, but if the song had a heart, it would be in the right place. Today’s contribution to your New Year’s resolution of less stress in your life is the development of your individual stress management program.
YOUR INDIVIDUAL STRESS MANAGEMENT PROGRAM

  • Learn to smile. Force it if you have to. Wear one when you walk. Your brain receives signals based on your physical appearance.
  • Learn to be optimistic. Force it if you have to. When you’re in a difficult situation, learn to ask yourself, “What’s the best that could happen?” Let optimism become your goal, and plan with achieving it in mind. Even if you don’t achieve your best, embrace positivity. Focus on the opportunities, not the obstacles.
  • Learn to have fun. Force yourself to have fun, whatever that is for you. Plan specific activities that will make you smile and laugh. Your brain and body need this outlet.
  • Learn variety. Force yourself to switch your routine. Even if you’re a workaholic or in a stressful environment, maneuver between activities.
  • Learn to break. Force yourself to rest, both mentally and physically. Turn it off and recharge. You’ll be more efficient when you return and won’t be as stressed about the activities you must perform.
  • Learn to add by subtraction. At some point you’ve got to learn to move past those things in your life that produce physical and mental stress. This includes foods, habits and sometimes people. I recently came across this quote:

“Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.”
That should either be a ringing endorsement of your choices or a warning sign. Make good choices!

Remember, these activities address both physical and emotional stress.

“Sound mind = sound body” is a real thing!

 stress mgmt 2

Physical activity creates good blood flow and healthy muscles and other tissues. This will reduce your levels of stress.

  • Don’t just sit there. Commit to do something. Commit to a routine.
  • Strive for 150 minutes/week of aerobic activity.
  • You’ll perform best with a personal trainer, but you don’t even need to join a gym. If you engage in brisk walking for 20 minutes/day, you’re good.
  • If you don’t have a trainer, get a workout partner or group. This is using peer pressure in a positive way.

Nutrition is the fuel for your body’s normal functioning. It will keep your brain and body sharp, your immune system powerful and you less susceptible to physical and emotional stress.

  • Use the food plate guide to facilitate making healthy choices.
  • Increase the amounts and varieties of fruits and vegetables you eat.
  • Stop eating when your body tells you that you’re full. Don’t worry so much about “finishing your plate.”
  • Avoid super-sized anything unless you’re splitting the servings.

stress mgmt1

Social support—an effective support network—can serve to dissipate your stress. Stress without an outlet is a force multiplier.

  • Wear a smile as your shield from stress. It invites positivity and positive people. Bringing new friends into your life is exciting for most people. Make an effort to socialize and enjoy the benefits of friendship, family and strong networks.
  • You are your own best support. If you hardwire positivity into your personality, you will find yourself less stressed. Take care of yourself, and be good to yourself and those around you.

Relaxation is for many people a distant memory that should go high on your New Year’s  resolution list.

  • If you don’t have time to relax, make time. If you can’t make time, take time. Enjoy your family, hobbies and life!
  • You must learn to connect mentally with your body’s cues. If you’re tired, rest. If you’re in pain, don’t push it. These early signs of physical stress are meant to be warnings. Take heed.
  • Don’t laugh, but relaxation techniques work! Consider mediation, yoga or just
    “resting your eyes.” Appreciate the healing power of music and the arts. The deeper you get into these effects, the better they become at relaxing you.
  • Sleep is your body’s way to reset and replenish. Good sleep habits are an important way to alleviate your stress.

stress mgmt 1

Professional Support
We multiply our stressors by failing to take advantage of the resources that are available. If your efforts to put a stress management program in place are unsuccessful, and you’re still addressing more than you can handle, you have a wealth of talented caring professionals ready to provide assistance. Licensed social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists can teach you additional stress management techniques and strategies. Nutritionists and personal trainers can fine-tune those factors that may otherwise contribute to physical stress. Your communities likely have resources to help. Of course, you also have access to 844-SMA-TALK and www.sterlingmedicaladvice.com, both of which offer you trained mental health professionals to get you through whatever issues you’re confronting.

Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Take the #72HoursChallenge, and join the community. As a thank you for being a valued subscriber to Straight, No Chaser, we’d like to offer you a complimentary 30-day membership at www.72hourslife.com. Just use the code #NoChaser, and yes, it’s ok if you share!
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new books There are 72 Hours in a Day: Using Efficiency to Better Enjoy Every Part of Your Life and The 72 Hours in a Day Workbook: The Journey to The 72 Hours Life in 72 Days at Amazon or at www.jeffreysterlingbooks.com. Receive introductory pricing with orders!
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2018· Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: The Horror of Night Terrors

night-terrors-280x280

I wonder how many of you have been exposed to night terrors.  These are different than nightmares, which we all know and experience.  In a nightmare, Little Johnny has had a bad dream, maybe thinking there’s a monster under his bed.  He wants to be comforted by you, and he is still upset the next morning.  That’s not what a night terror looks like.
During a night terror, Little Johnny may be sleep walking, or he seems to wake up in the middle of the night and just starts screaming.  He’s really not communicative; he’s just terrified.  These episodes generally last about 15 minutes. Then he goes back to sleep.  The next morning, the child has no recollection of the event.
The cause of night terrors is unknown but they seem to be triggered by emotional stress and lack of sleep.  Febrile illnesses also seem to correlate with the presence of these episodes.
Who gets these?  Children less than age seven, more frequently boys.  These episodes usually stop by age 10.  There often is a family history.
There’s really no testing or treatment for these until they are frequent and prolonged, or unless a secondary injury occurs from all the trashing about.
I bring this to your attention because many parents are aware of this phenomenon and have no idea what to do when it occurs.  My best advice is to ensure that the child is safe during the episode for otherwise stress free children.  You may want to consider medical or psychological screening if the problem worsens.  Sleep well…
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Order your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com, iTunes, Amazon, Barnes and Nobles and wherever books are sold.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2016 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser Reader Request: Why You Get Grey Hair

grey barack-obama-hair-460x276

This is a lot simpler than people make it.  Gray hair is a happenstance of life.  At the end of the day, genetic, racial and chemical considerations determine when you go gray.  Let’s briefly look at each and dispel a myth or two along the way.
Chemical: Your hair consists of two parts, a shaft (the visible part above the skin line) and the root (the portion located below the surface). The root contains hair follicles, which contain color-producing cells called melanin (yes, the same melanin that contributes to skin color). Any disruption in melanin production or damage to the hair follicles, such as folliculitis and especially the normal effects of aging, can cause graying. This graying may be physiologic and timely, or it can be premature. An additional consideration to graying can be the physiologic build up of hydrogen peroxide. This naturally occurring chemical actually bleaches the hair.
grey cooperRacial: Bet you didn’t know that on average, different racial and ethnic groups go gray at different rates. Whites start graying in their mid-30s. Asians begin graying in their late 30s. African-Americans seem to begin graying in their mid to late 40s. Most people will have noticeable and significant graying by age 50.
gray-hair
Genetic: Simply put, graying is predetermined based on your genetic composition. You should already have a good idea if and when you’re going gray by looking at your parents and grandparents.

And now… two questions rolled into one.

Doesn’t stress make you gray?  Isn’t that why Presidents go gray while in office?

  • Presidents go gray in office because they’re at the age when people go gray while in office.
  • The stress you’re thinking of (‘freaking out’) isn’t the same as physiologic stress, which is a disruption of the body’s normal functions. Such biological stresses can cause disruption of any bodily function. This is why so much confusion exists around ‘stress’. When scientists or your physicians are describing the effects of stress, it’s much deeper than your anxiety attack, which isn’t going to turn you gray overnight.

Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) and 844-SMA-TALK offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, like us on Facebook @ SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and follow us on Twitter at @asksterlingmd. Preorder your copy of Dr. Sterling’s new book Behind The Curtain: A Peek at Life from within the ER at jeffreysterlingbooks.com.

Straight, No Chaser: Pass The Stress Test

stress

Let’s agree not to go into the New Year filled with last year’s tension or without a plan to avoid new stress. In fact, let’s take this time to lay the groundwork for one now.
Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. Stress by itself isn’t the problem; in fact, stress can be a powerful motivator. After all, that’s what the “fight or flight” response is – a response to stress. The issue becomes when you can’t manage your stress.
stress_management

Remember that stress comes in different forms, including emotional and physical. Emotional stress is mental and impacts your ability to respond to situations you find challenging. This type of stress is individualized – what one person considers stressful, someone else might not. Physical stress is the body’s response to triggers. A simple example is what happens if you place your hand in fire. Your body gets burned. That burn is a physical stress on your body. Interestingly, each type of stressor may result in the other. For example, that burn causes you to have emotional pain to accompany the physical pain. In another instance, your emotional stress may produce physical stress such as sweating, vomiting, blackouts or abnormal heartbeats.
You have to get in front of tough situations and learn stress management. You need to learn to reduce, control, defect and channel tension away from its potentially crippling effects. Don’t think it can’t be done: just as the fireman runs into a burning building, the pilot navigates a crashing plane to safety or the emergency physician saves a live without being swallowed up by the magnitude of the moment, you can conquer the challenge confronting you.

Stress-Management-Checklist-to-Survive-and-Thrive

Today, I want to focus on 5 factors that play into your development of physical and emotional stress: attitude, diet, physical activity, relaxation habits and support systems. These factors not only work against you if they’re not healthily managed and working to your advantage, but they are the basis for the stress management program we’ll build for you.

  • Attitude: Your perspective and attitude make you interpret the same situation or trigger either negatively, positively or indifferently. A negative attitude goes along with more stress.
  • Diet: One’s poor eating habits literally place the body in a state of physical stress and weakens the immune system, resulting in an easier ability to contract a variety of diseases. Poor nutrition eventually will affect the brain and result in additional physical and emotional stress resulting from sub-optimal function of the brain.
  • Physical activity: Insufficient physical activity will eventually put the body in a stressed state due to diminished blood flow to your organs. Just as a feeling of well-being will reduce stress, being ill and/or out-of-shape will increase stress.
  • Relaxation: Your inclination and willingness to allow your body to rest and recharge has ramifications for both physical and emotional stress. This involves taking time to sleep as well as enjoy life. If you’re not relaxed, you’re probably going to be stressed.
  • Support systems: The presence or absence of individuals and groups to help you through potentially stressful situations has the power to diffuse or magnify a situation and its associated stress.

Please take the time between this post and the upcoming post on developing a stress management program for you to assess your own situation, including the factors just mentioned. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and be better prepared for what comes next.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress. We are also on Facebook at SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2015 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Understanding and Controlling Stress

   stress-curvestress_graph

Have you ever noticed how some people seem to strive in stressful environments? The success of firemen, police officers, air traffic controllers and many other professionals theoretically is based on being able to maintain an appropriate disposition and high level of performance in stressful situations. The entire medical speciality of emergency medicine is based on the premise that the team performs even better the more urgent the situation. I start today’s conversation with this consideration because I want you to realize that stress by itself isn’t the problem. Stress is simply a feeling of emotional or physical tension. In fact, stress can be a powerful motivator. After all, that’s what the “fight or flight” response is – a response to stress. The issue becomes when you can’t manage your stress.
stress sources
Remember that stress comes in different forms, including emotional and physical. Emotional stress is mental, and it impacts your ability to respond to situations you find challenging. This type of stress is individualized – what one person considers stressful, someone else might not.
stress health effx
Physical stress is the body’s response to triggers. A simple example is what happens if you place your hand in fire. Your body gets burned. That burn is a physical stress on your body. Interestingly, each type of stressor may result in the other. For example, that burn causes you to have emotional pain to accompany the physical pain. In another instance, your emotional stress may produce physical stress such as sweating, vomiting, blackouts or abnormal heartbeats.
Stress mgmt
You have to get in front of tough situations and learn stress management. You need to learn to detect, control, and channel tension away from its potentially crippling effects. Don’t think it can’t be done: just as the fireman runs into a burning building, the pilot navigates a crashing plane to safety or the emergency physician saves a life without being swallowed up by the magnitude of the moment, you can conquer the challenge confronting you.

Stress-Management-Checklist-to-Survive-and-Thrive

Today, I want to focus on 5 factors that play into your development of physical and emotional stress: attitude, diet, physical activity, relaxation habits and support systems. These factors not only work against you if they’re not healthily managed and working to your advantage, but they are the basis for the stress management program we’ll build for you.

  • Attitude: Your perspective and attitude make you interpret the same situation or trigger either negatively, positively or indifferently. A negative attitude goes along with more stress.
  • Diet: One’s poor eating habits literally place the body in a state of physical stress and weakens the immune system, resulting in an easier ability to contract a variety of diseases. Poor nutrition eventually will affect the brain and result in additional physical and emotional stress resulting from sub-optimal function of the brain.
  • Physical activity: Insufficient physical activity will eventually put the body in a stressed state due to diminished blood flow to your organs. Just as a feeling of well-being will reduce stress, being ill and/or out-of-shape will increase stress.
  • Relaxation: Your inclination and willingness to allow your body to rest and recharge has ramifications for both physical and emotional stress. This involves taking time to sleep as well as enjoy life. If you’re not relaxed, you’re probably going to be stressed.
  • Support systems: The presence or absence of individuals and groups to help you through potentially stressful situations has the power to diffuse or magnify a situation and its associated stress.

Please take the time between this post and the upcoming post (on developing a stress management program for you) to assess your own situation, including the factors just mentioned. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and be better prepared for what comes next.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what 844-SMA-TALK and http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) offer. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, Facebook @ SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2014 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress.

Straight, No Chaser: The Horror of Night Terrors

night-terrors-280x280

I wonder how many of you have been exposed to night terrors.  These are different than nightmares, which we all know and experience.  In a nightmare, Little Johnny has had a bad dream, maybe thinking there’s a monster under his bed.  He wants to be comforted by you, and he is still upset the next morning.  That’s not what a night terror looks like.
During a night terror, Little Johnny may be sleep walking, or he seems to wake up in the middle of the night and just starts screaming.  He’s really not communicative; he’s just terrified.  These episodes generally last about 15 minutes. Then he goes back to sleep.  The next morning, the child has no recollection of the event.
The cause of night terrors is unknown but they seem to be triggered by emotional stress and lack of sleep.  Febrile illnesses also seem to correlate with the presence of these episodes.
Who gets these?  Children less than age seven, more frequently boys.  These episodes usually stop by age 10.  There often is a family history.
There’s really no testing or treatment for these until they are frequent and prolonged, or unless a secondary injury occurs from all the trashing about.
I bring this to your attention because many parents are aware of this phenomenon and have no idea what to do when it occurs.  My best advice is to ensure that the child is safe during the episode for otherwise stress free children.  You may want to consider medical or psychological screening if the problem worsens.  Sleep well…
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what  http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress, Facebook @ SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2014 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight No Chaser: Your Stress Management Plan

stress_graph

The path to “Don’t Worry, Be Happy” isn’t as simple as the song suggests, but if the song had a heart, it would be in the right place. Today’s contribution to your New Year’s resolution of less stress in your life is the development of your individual stress management program.

YOUR INDIVIDUAL STRESS MANAGEMENT PROGRAM

  • Learn to smile. Force it if you have to. Wear one when you walk. Your brain receives signals based on your physical appearance.
  • Learn to be optimistic. Force it if you have to. When you’re in a difficult situation, learn to ask yourself, “What’s the best that could happen?” Let optimism become your goal, and plan with achieving it in mind. Even if you don’t achieve your best, embrace positivity. Focus on the opportunities, not the obstacles.
  • Learn to have fun. Force yourself to have fun, whatever that is for you. Plan specific activities that will make you smile and laugh. Your brain and body need this outlet.
  • Learn variety. Force yourself to switch your routine. Even if you’re a workaholic or in a stressful environment, maneuver between activities.
  • Learn to break. Force yourself to rest, both mentally and physically. Turn it off and recharge. You’ll be more efficient when you return and won’t be as stressed about the activities you must perform.
  • Learn to add by subtraction. At some point you’ve got to learn to move past those things in your life that produce physical and mental stress. This includes foods, habits and sometimes people. I recently came across this quote:

“Show me your friends, and I’ll show you your future.”

That should either be a ringing endorsement of your choices or a warning sign. Make good choices!

Remember, these activities address both physical and emotional stress.

“Sound mind = sound body” is a real thing!

 
Physical activity creates good blood flow and healthy muscles and other tissues. This will reduce your levels of stress.

  • Don’t just sit there. Commit to do something. Commit to a routine.
  • Strive for 150 minutes/week of aerobic activity.
  • You’ll perform best with a personal trainer, but you don’t even need to join a gym. If you engage in brisk walking for 20 minutes/day, you’re good.
  • If you don’t have a trainer, get a workout partner or group. This is using peer pressure in a positive way.

Nutrition is the fuel for your body’s normal functioning. It will keep your brain and body sharp, your immune system powerful and you less susceptible to physical and emotional stress.

  • Use the food plate guide to facilitate making healthy choices.
  • Increase the amounts and varieties of fruits and vegetables you eat.
  • Stop eating when your body tells you that you’re full. Don’t worry so much about “finishing your plate.”
  • Avoid super-sized anything unless you’re splitting the servings.

Social support—an effective support network—can serve to dissipate your stress. Stress without an outlet is a force multiplier.

  • Wear a smile as your shield from stress. It invites positivity and positive people. Bringing new friends into your life is exciting for most people. Make an effort to socialize and enjoy the benefits of friendship, family and strong networks.
  • You are your own best support. If you hardwire positivity into your personality, you will find yourself less stressed. Take care of yourself, and be good to yourself and those around you.

Relaxation is for many people a distant memory that should go high on your New Year’s  resolution list.

  • If you don’t have time to relax, make time. If you can’t make time, take time. Enjoy your family, hobbies and life!
  • You must learn to connect mentally with your body’s cues. If you’re tired, rest. If you’re in pain, don’t push it. These early signs of physical stress are meant to be warnings. Take heed.
  • Don’t laugh, but relaxation techniques work! Consider mediation, yoga or just
    “resting your eyes.” Appreciate the healing power of music and the arts. The deeper you get into these effects, the better they become at relaxing you.
  • Sleep is your body’s way to reset and replenish. Good sleep habits are an important way to alleviate your stress.

Professional Support
We multiply our stressors by failing to take advantage of the resources that are available. If your efforts to put a stress management program in place are unsuccessful, and you’re still addressing more than you can handle, you have a wealth of talented caring professionals ready to provide assistance. Licensed social workers, psychologists and psychiatrists can teach you additional stress management techniques and strategies. Nutritionists and personal trainers can fine-tune those factors that may otherwise contribute to physical stress. Your communities likely have resources to help. Of course, you also have access to 844-SMA-TALK and www.sterlingmedicaladvice.com, both of which offer you trained mental health professionals to get you through whatever issues you’re confronting.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress. We are also on Facebook at SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2014 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight, No Chaser: Pass The Stress Test

Stress-Management-Checklist-to-Survive-and-Thrive

Let’s agree not to go into the New Year filled with last year’s tension or without a plan to avoid new stress. In fact, let’s take this time to lay the groundwork for one now.

Stress is a feeling of emotional or physical tension. Stress by itself isn’t the problem; in fact, stress can be a powerful motivator. After all, that’s what the “fight or flight” response is – a response to stress. The issue becomes when you can’t manage your stress.

stress_management

Remember that stress comes in different forms, including emotional and physical. Emotional stress is mental and impacts your ability to respond to situations you find challenging. This type of stress is individualized – what one person considers stressful, someone else might not. Physical stress is the body’s response to triggers. A simple example is what happens if you place your hand in fire. Your body gets burned. That burn is a physical stress on your body. Interestingly, each type of stressor may result in the other. For example, that burn causes you to have emotional pain to accompany the physical pain. In another instance, your emotional stress may produce physical stress such as sweating, vomiting, blackouts or abnormal heartbeats.
You have to get in front of tough situations and learn stress management. You need to learn to reduce, control, defect and channel tension away from its potentially crippling effects. Don’t think it can’t be done: just as the fireman runs into a burning building, the pilot navigates a crashing plane to safety or the emergency physician saves a live without being swallowed up by the magnitude of the moment, you can conquer the challenge confronting you.
Today, I want to focus on 5 factors that play into your development of physical and emotional stress: attitude, diet, physical activity, relaxation habits and support systems. These factors not only work against you if they’re not healthily managed and working to your advantage, but they are the basis for the stress management program we’ll build for you.

  • Attitude: Your perspective and attitude make you interpret the same situation or trigger either negatively, positively or indifferently. A negative attitude goes along with more stress.
  • Diet: One’s poor eating habits literally place the body in a state of physical stress and weakens the immune system, resulting in an easier ability to contract a variety of diseases. Poor nutrition eventually will affect the brain and result in additional physical and emotional stress resulting from sub-optimal function of the brain.
  • Physical activity: Insufficient physical activity will eventually put the body in a stressed state due to diminished blood flow to your organs. Just as a feeling of well-being will reduce stress, being ill and/or out-of-shape will increase stress.
  • Relaxation: Your inclination and willingness to allow your body to rest and recharge has ramifications for both physical and emotional stress. This involves taking time to sleep as well as enjoy life. If you’re not relaxed, you’re probably going to be stressed.
  • Support systems: The presence or absence of individuals and groups to help you through potentially stressful situations has the power to diffuse or magnify a situation and its associated stress.

Please take the time between this post and the upcoming post on developing a stress management program for you to assess your own situation, including the factors just mentioned. You’ll learn a lot about yourself and be better prepared for what comes next.
Feel free to ask your SMA expert consultant any questions you may have on this topic.
Thanks for liking and following Straight, No Chaser! This public service provides a sample of what http://www.SterlingMedicalAdvice.com (SMA) offers. Please share our page with your friends on WordPress. We are also on Facebook at SterlingMedicalAdvice.com and Twitter at @asksterlingmd.
Copyright © 2014 · Sterling Initiatives, LLC · Powered by WordPress

Straight No Chaser: Myth Busters Edition – Migraine Headaches Fact vs. Fiction

headache

There are 30 million migraine sufferers in the U.S. alone.  Women are thrice as likely to have them, but both sexes have to address the issues raised by them.  Here are some important facts regarding migraines and myths surrounding them, based on questions I’ve actually been asked.  And yes, regarding the lead picture, I refuse to say she’s lion.

Myth #1: I can’t help if I get migraines.  They’re hereditary, right?

There are a few things about being predisposed to having migraines I want you to know.

  • If you have one parent with migraines, there’s a 50% chance you’ll have them.
  • If both your parents have migraines, there’s a 75% chance you also will.
  • 4 of 5 migraine sufferers have a relative with migraines.

These facts represent a predisposition.  In order to have migraines, you must have triggers that will set off the migraine.  That’s a vital consideration in your effort to prevent, reduce and effectively treat your migraines.

Myth #2: This is a woman’s disease.  They stress out more and are more emotional.  That’s why they get headaches.

It is true that there is a strong hormonal component to migraines, particularly regarding estrogen and progesterone.  In fact, the incidence of migraines between the sexes is pretty equal until puberty.  Migraines are increased during pre-menstruation, when hormone levels are high.  Menopause may ease migraines.    All of this said, men still get migraines as well because of the presence of other triggers.  It certainly does not appear to be true that women suffer stress at a disproportionate rate sufficient to claim it as more of a trigger in women than in men.  Both sexes’ stress responses include release of substances that expands blood vessels, causing migraines.

Myth #3: My migraines won’t get any easier as I get older.

Along the same lines as Myth #2, diminished hormone production that accompanies aging may help explain how most migraine sufferers have less frequent and less intense migraines after age 40.  Because of hormonal fluctuations during perimenopause, this reduction may not be seen.

  • Most people who get migraines have fewer headaches and their headaches aren’t as strong once they hit 40. However, this may not be the case for women going through perimenopause. If hormones are a trigger for a woman’s migraines, then she could have more headaches during the period around menopause.

Myth #4: Once I’m diagnosed with migraines, only narcotics will help.

First of all, trigger identification and prevention is vital.  Migraine trigger management and treatment is a topic unto itself, but I’d like to point out a few important considerations.

  • Think triggers first and last.  The list of triggers includes foods (think chocolate, alcohol, aged cheese and caffeine; results vary with the individual), cold, stress, smoking and certain medications.  Alterations in mealtimes, exercise and sleep patterns must be monitored as well, these tend to exacerbate migraines.  Migraine sufferers are advised to maintain a headache log to identify triggers as things occur.
  • A special comment about caffeine: It helps some people, but for others it’s a migraine trigger, particularly if you’re a heavy user.  If you don’t drink many caffeinated beverages, one may help if you’re having a less than severe migraine.  If you’re taking enough in to create a caffeine dependency, overnight withdrawal may be enough to trigger a morning migraine.

Patients must become their own experts on how and when you use different medications.

  • I hope you and your primary care physician have discussed and have you focusing on your abortive medications.  These medicines can stop further progression of migraines if used early enough at the first sign of a migraine.
  • Painkillers have consequences.  As tolerance to and dependence on narcotics develop, withdrawal symptoms become more prominent.  Rebound headaches are a major component of these symptoms.  That’s a vicious cycle that doesn’t have a happy ending.  It’s important to note that your health care professionals do appreciate there is a difference between being drug seeking and drug dependent.

Myth #5: Migraines really don’t cause problems beyond the headaches, right?

Wrong.  If you have migraines, take special care to ensure you have a healthy heart and a low risk for strokes.  Refer to the Straight, No Chaser archives (or just type in the search engine to the right) for information on stroke recognition and heart attack recognition.  If you’re a female and have migraines with aura (certain warning symptoms that precede you migraine like nausea, dizziness, light sensitivity, and seeing zig-zag lines), your heart attack risk climbs by over 90% and your stroke risk more than doubles (increases by up to 108%).  The presence of migraines without aura also raises the risk of heart attack and stroke but by lesser amounts.

As per routine at Straight, No Chaser, the message is simple, but execution is key. Prevention is protection, and knowledge is power.  Check back this afternoon for life threatening causes of headaches, and feel free to send questions and comments.  Take good care.