Episodic Migraine & Obesity, Gender, Age, Race
First things first: Many of the headlines about a new research study have said there is a connection between frequent Migraine attacks and obesity. But what do they mean by frequent? Not what you or I might think, that's for sure.
As educated, empowered patients, we know there is episodic Migraine and chronic Migraine. Chronic Migraine is 15 or more days of headache a month. To me, the word frequent screams chronic. But the research study was actually about the connection between episodic Migraine and obesity. Confusing, I think, though certainly not the fault of the journal or study authors, but something I wanted to make clear for our Migraine.com readers.
Weight can be such a touchy subject, especially for women, who make up the vast majority of Migraineurs. But it's important to note researchers are focusing on obesity because it's a modifiable potential risk factor unlike, say, genetic predisposition. I truly believe there is no attempt to stigmatize obese people or Migraine patients involved in this research.
In this study of just 188 Migraine patients meeting the criteria for episodic Migraine, the researchers suspected the odds of a person experiencing episodic Migraine would be more likely among three groups:
- Women under age 50 (women of reproductive age are more likely to experience Migraine than other groups).
- White people.
As with other studies examining obesity among women Migraineurs of reproductive age, the data supported these predictions.
Even with the best research studies there are always potentially limiting factors. This study included a small sample size. Furthermore, the patients self-reported their height and weight, which is used for calculating body mass index, and Migraine attack frequency. Finally, the number of black episodic Migraineurs in the study was so small the findings about white people being more likely to experience episodic Migraine may or may not bear out in future studies.
Fortunately, only patients who met the ICHD-II definition of episodic Migraine were included in the study. The ICHD is the gold standard across the globe for diagnosis of Headache Disorders.
So, What can you take away? Although we know exercise induces Migraine attacks for many people, maintaining a healthy weight may make a difference in attack frequency for people experiencing episodic Migraine. This is important not only to increase the likelihood you can function at any given time, but also to try to prevent the transformation from episodic to chronic Migraine. To combat the exercise issue, it's important to start slowly and pace yourself. Further, calorie counting alone is an effective way to achieve and/or maintain a healthy weight, even if you cannot exercise in the traditional sense.
Can you tell when a migraine attack is coming?