Monday, September 16, 2013

Obesity and Migraine - What's the Connection

Obesity and Migraine - What's the Connection

I am an overweight female who has migraine disease. It’s been suggested to me by my loved ones and medical team that if I were to "lose some weight" I would feel better. The truth is I have lost weight and lowered my BMI (body mass index) by 11 points, but  still have migraines. Is there a connection between being fat and migraines? Yes, we do know from other studies that there is an association between being overweight and chronic migraines. Now however, it appears that people who have episodic (14 or fewer migraine attacks a month) migraines are more apt to be obese people who do not have migraine.

 A study was recently released from the American Academy of Neurology in the September 11, 2013 online issue of Neurology ® regarding obesity and migraine. "Episodic migraine and obesity and the influence of age, race, and sex " authored by Dr. B. Lee Peterlin of Johns Hopkins University School of Medicine in Baltimore, MD  showed people with a high BMI are 81% more likely to have episodic migraines. Peterlin said "previous studies have shown a link between people with chronic migraine and obesity, but the research has been conflicting on whether that link existed for those with less frequent attacks."

This study included 3,862 participants who completed a questionnaire on their age, height, migraine frequency  and weight. Of the participants, 1,044 were reported to be obese; 188 of them had episodic migraine. Per the study, participants who showed the strongest association between migraines and obesity were women under 50 years-old and Caucasian.  

Dr. Peterlin also said that it would be beneficial for health care professionals to encourage people with episodic migraine to incorporate healthy choices into their lives. He went on to say "as obesity is a risk factor that can potentially be modified and since some medications for migraine can lead to weight gain or loss, this is important information for people with migraine and their doctors.” 

 A healthy food plan, avoiding migraine triggers, getting some form of daily exercise and maintaining a consistent sleep schedule are all lifestyle choices that many of us need to make. A conversation about weight gain as a potential side effect of the medications we take is important to have with our doctors. While some of these changes are more difficult to make and stick to then others, it is important to be mindful of our choices. This will enable us to take control of our migraines and not let them control us.


Press Release. "Obesity May Be Associated with Even Occasional Migraines."
Minneapolis, M.N. September 11, 2013.

 Vroomen Durning, Marijke. "Obesity May Increase Migraine Odds." USA News. HealthDay, September 11, 2013.

Photo credit: Nancy Harris Bonk 

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© Nancy Harris Bonk, 2013. Last updated September 15,  2013. 

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