From Medscape Medical News
August 19, 2010 — Teenagers who get little exercise, are overweight, or who smoke are more likely to have frequent headaches or migraines, report researchers.
"There was a significant trend for stronger associations between the number of negative lifestyle factors that were present and the different headache diagnoses and headache frequency," point out the investigators led by John-Anker Zwart, MD, from Oslo University in Norway. "We believe that the associations observed and the additive effect of these negative lifestyle factors on the prevalence of recurrent headache strongly indicates that these lifestyle factors are possible targets for headache preventive measures."
The new study appears in the August 18 issue of Neurology. As part of the cross-sectional study, researchers interviewed more than 5500 students about headache complaints. The adolescents also completed a questionnaire and underwent a clinical examination with height and weight measurements.
Investigators classified adolescents who were very physically fit and who were not current smokers as having a good lifestyle. Negative lifestyle factors were surprisingly common with low physical activity in 31%, smoking in 19%, and overweight in 16% of these teens.
In adjusted multivariate analyses, recurrent headache was associated with overweight (odds ratio [OR], 1.4; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.2 – 1.6; P < .0001), low physical activity (OR, 1.2; 95% CI, 1.1 – 1.4; P = .002), and smoking (OR, 1.5; 95% CI, 1.3 – 1.7; P < .0001). The presence of more than 1 negative lifestyle factor heightened the risk of headache.
This study shows overweight, low physical activity, and smoking are independently and in combination associated with recurrent headache among adolescents, report the study authors.
In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Andrew Hershey and Dr. Richard Lipton say that "this study is a vital step toward a better understanding of lifestyle effects and the potential for behavioral interventions for adolescents with headache disorders."
Dr. Hershey is at the University of Cincinnati in Ohio and Dr. Lipton is at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in the Bronx, New York. They point out the effects of each negative lifestyle factor were similar in magnitude for each headache type. "This lack of specificity for headache type raises the possibility that these factors may be associated not just with headache but with all-cause pain."
These results mirror those of another study published in June in the journal Headache. Investigators led by Rudiger von Kries, MD, from Ludwig-Maximilians-University in Munich, Germany, found that being physically active and abstaining from alcohol, caffeine, and tobacco could help prevent headaches in adolescents.
The study included 1260 students, and after controlling for socioeconomic variables, the prevalence of any headache was increased in teens who reported regularly drinking cocktails (OR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.3 – 3.0), who drank at least 1 cup of coffee per day (OR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.2 – 3.5), and who were physically less active (OR, 2.0; 95% CI, 1.3 – 3.1). Smoking daily had an OR of 1.8.
These findings, say editorialists, suggest that a better understanding of modifiable risk factors and trigger factors may lead to novel intervention strategies.