The Elderly and Migraines: What You Need To Know
There’s a good chance your elderly loved one is suffering from migraines and you may not even know it. Migraines are one of the most common neurological disorders, affecting 38 million people in the United States. While they can occur at any age, they’re most common in those aged 25 to 55 years old. But what about those aged 65 and older? Turns out, this population is at an increased risk for migraine headaches. In fact, research shows that nearly half of all people with migraines are over the age of 50. So, if you have an elderly loved one who sometimes seems to be in pain and you’re not sure why, it’s worth having a conversation about migraines.
As we age, our nerve cells become less able to transmit signals quickly enough so when you suffer from frequent headaches, it’s often due in part by too much pressure on these tired-out nerves. Theories point that increased tension on both physical and mental levels as well sensory distractions like bright lights, age-related weariness, dehydration from poor diet choices or medications that affect blood flow, can all contribute towards an uncomfortable and painful migraine cycle. A change in lifestyle that could lead to feeling isolated, depressed or lonely such as giving up hobbies as we age, could also be trigger to headaches.
Lifestyle changes can ease headaches
If you or your loved one experience headaches and secondary causes have been ruled out, certain lifestyle changes can make a difference:
- Get enough sleep. This can help prevent headaches from developing or escalating, says B.C.’s Fraser Health.
- Don’t skip meals. Start with a healthy breakfast, eat lunch and dinner and drink enough water.
- Be physically active. Exercise causes your body to release chemicals that block pain signals to your brain.
- Lower stress. Emotional stress increases tension in your head, neck, and muscles. Stay positive and relax. Try yoga, meditation, listen to music, read, or take a hot bath.
- Avoid headache triggers. Reduce exposure to possible triggers like bright lights, loud noises, or too much caffeine or alcohol.
- Try alternative therapies. There is evidence biofeedback and acupuncture help some people control headaches and cope with pain.
- Contact your doctor for pharmacological treatments available to reduce or eliminate migraines.
The Brain Center is here to support patients and their caregivers in their journey. Contact us to learn more from our Neurologists.