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Timing Key To Headache Relief

If you're among the millions of Americans who suffer from chronic headaches, help may be on the way.

The latest issue of Fitness magazine has tips on how you can prevent the pain by identifying some common triggers.

Liz Vaccariello, the magazine's executive editor, tells The Early Show co-anchor Rene Syler the key to dealing with headaches is to know what the triggers are so you can prevent or mitigate the pain.

She notes, "Researchers believe 45 percent of headaches are triggered by diet. Alcohol, particularly red wine, aged cheeses such as gouda, parmesan and cheddars, and caffeine are common triggers. They can all trigger all sorts of headaches, but migraines in particular. If you think that diet is a trigger, keep a food diary for two weeks and look for connections."

Stress and tension caused by poor posture can be a common cause of headaches. Vaccariello notes, "The head is like an eight- to ten-pound bowling ball. The neck is naturally curved to support it. And if we slouch or hunch over, we're putting tension on our neck and shoulders, which rises up and causes a headache. So have a friend check your posture, make sure that your back is straight; your shoulders are down. If you have to sit for long periods of time, make sure your lower back is against the back of the chair. And take 10-minute breaks every hour or so to make sure your shoulders are down and your neck is relaxed."

Some headaches may also be caused by overuse of common over-the-counter medications, says Vaccariello. "People who take acetaminophen, ibuprofen or even formulations that contain caffeine two to three times a week can have rebound headaches that causes receptors in the brain to build up tolerance. And when the medication wears off, you go through withdrawal and the headache returns.

The study last week shows teenagers are taking over-the-counter medicine that their parents don't even know about. So limit over-the-counter meds to three times a week and follow dosage directions carefully. A lot of people think the more medicine you take, the better it will work. But it can lead to rebound headaches," Vaccariello says.

Weather can cause headaches when the barometric pressure drops. "I always thought that was an urban myth," Vaccariello says but notes, "Before a rainstorm, the body has less oxygen available to it. This can cause the blood vessels in the brain to dilate and can trigger migraines and other headaches. If you think the weather is causing your headache, take medications right away. The longer you wait, the harder it will be to prevent the pain."

The best advice for people with chronic headaches is to seek help from a doctor. The frequency of the headaches should be the guideline. If you get headaches two or more times a week or your headaches are increasing in frequency, see a doctor.

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