by Page Fowler
Bills, deadlines, and crying babies: They’re pretty much guaranteed to give you a headache. But other sources of brain pain, like your posture or your fluid intake, tend to be less obvious.
Step away from the Extra Strength. Check out these five skull-crushing culprits so you can steer clear and keep your head in the game all day long.
1. You’re too stressed
New research confirms stress is literally a headache. German researchers followed more than 5,000 people for two years and found that the more stressed you are, the greater your likelihood of suffering both tension-type and migraine headaches. For every 10-point increase on a 100-point stress scale there was a 6.3 percent rise in the number of headaches people reported. What you can do: Schedule a massage, especially during stressful times. Researchers at the University of Granada found just one 30-minute rub down using a trigger point technique—which targets areas that calm the fight-or-flight response—decreased anxiety and physical tension associated with the noggin nuisance.
2. You’re not drinking enough water
When researchers in the Netherlands split frequent headache sufferers into two groups—only one was asked to consume an extra six glasses of water per day—about half of the people in the water-guzzling group experienced a decrease in pain and severity of their headaches, but only 25 percent of the non-water group. One theory as to why: Dehydration causes your blood volume to drop, which may result in dilated blood vessels that trigger pain signals. Keep a water bottle nearby and aim to sip at least eight glasses per day.
3. You chew too much gum
Fresh breath could come at a cost: When researchers at Meir Medical Center in Tel Aviv asked gum-chewing headache suffers to give up their chicklets for a month, 86 percent reported improvements in their symptoms and many experienced total relief. The artificial sweetener aspartame may trigger the throbbing and the repetitive act of chewing could create muscle tension in your jaw and skull. Ditch the sticks or replace them with aspartame-free mints for a month and see if your symptoms improve.
4. You’re depressed
Guys are more likely to suffer physical symptoms of depression—such as headaches, dizziness, and digestive issues—than women. Since feeling like your skull is being squeezed in a vise isn’t as obvious a symptom as sadness or crying, depression can drag on undetected. Even more: University of Oxford researchers suggest that depression may affect your neurocircuitry in a way that enhances your perception of pain. Noticing an uptick in headaches recently? Be on the lookout other signs of depression such as difficulty sleeping, anger, irritability, or an increase in drinking and seek help.
5. You have Lyme disease
If you’ve recently trekked outside in wooded or grassy areas, Lyme disease is a legitimate concern—and headaches are one of the most common symptoms. In fact, Lyme disease is far more common than previously thought. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, more than 300,000 people in the U.S. may contract the tick-borne illness each year, which is 10 times higher than prior reports. Untreated, the bacteria can cause an infection that spreads to your joints, heart, and nervous system. If you notice frequent headaches along with fever, fatigue, or muscle aches contact your doctor immediately.
Read more in Men’s Health
Op-ed pieces and contributions are the opinions of the writers only and do not represent the opinions of Y!/YNaija.