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When Are Headaches More Than Simple Headaches?


Hypertension (high blood pressure or HBP) is a common unrecognized cause of headaches.  Hypertension itself is very common - according to the American Heart Association, approximately one-third of American adults have HBP. Nearly one-third of these people don't even realize that they have HBP. This is a serious problem.

Two of the most important things you can do to prevent HBP are to make sure you get regular exercise, and to maintain a normal body weight. For extra benefits, exercise outside in nature whenever possible. This may help reduce stress (and therefore blood pressure) even more.

Eating fresh, raw garlic has also been shown to help improve blood pressure.  If you (or your partner) objects to the garlic smell, you can take odorless garlic capsules instead.

It is also helpful to make sure your vitamin D levels are sufficient.  You can have your doctor order an inexpensive test to make sure you are not deficient.

Eating a lot of fresh, non-starchy vegetables is great, but make sure you don't overdo it on the fruits, especially if you tend to have HBP.  Fructose, the main sugar in fruit has been linked to elevated blood pressure. The even bigger culprit, however, is the high fructose corn syrup found in many commercial products... especially soft drinks.  These must be avoided, especially if you have HBP!

It is also helpful to avoid coffee (which can increase blood pressure) and make sure you are getting enough sleep each night.

Did you know that approximately 10 million Americans suffer with daily headaches? 50 million more have headaches often enough to seek medical care, while approximately 23 million Americans suffer from migraines.  Although people spend billions of dollars each year on Imitrex for migraines, and various over-the-counter remedies for tension headaches, the statistics haven't really improved in the last 20 years.  Approximately one out of every six Americans suffers from headaches.

Tension headaches are the most common type of headache.  These are generally caused by stress and muscle tension (primarily in the neck and shoulders) but can also be caused by eye strain. The dull, throbbing pain can be severe, and may even include nausea.

Migraines are even more debilitating, and are often preceded by something called an "aura", referring to the visual symptoms which may include seeing flashing lights or even losing a portion of one's visual field.

Although headaches are a very common malady, they should never be taken for granted.  Everyone who suffers from headaches should, at some point, have a physical examination to rule out serious underlying problems such as high blood pressure.

It is also very important to realize that the occurrence of an unusual headache, accompanied by brand-new symptoms, should be immediately evaluated by a physician. A severe and sudden headache, "like nothing I ever had before", requires immediate attention. If you've never previously vomited as a result of a headache, and suddenly you are, you need to see a physician. An unusual, unexpected increased level of headache pain also requires immediate attention. Any of these situations could be the result of a serious underlying problem, and an MRI is usually necessary.

Chiropractic treatment is often a great benefit for many people who suffer from tension headaches and even migraines. A chiropractic physician will perform a complete physical examination, which often includes x-rays. Underlying causes of headaches must be ruled out. If a medical condition is indicated, the patient may be referred to the appropriate specialist.

Chiropractic spinal adjustments are a gentle procedure that effectively reduces muscle tension while improving spinal mobility.  With chiropractic care, neck and shoulder muscles are freed from being held in fixed positions, resulting in improved circulation, improved cellular nutrition, and more efficient muscle activity. The frequency and intensity of tension headaches may be noticeably reduced. Migraine headaches may also improve as well.

Regular exercise and an appropriate diet are also crucial in the treatment of headaches. Exercise improves all aspects of muscle function, while also improving circulation which helps your muscles by bringing oxygen and nutrients and removing irritants such as lactic acid.  Exercise also helps to improve a person's mood, and significantly reduces overall stress and tension.  An additional benefit of a balanced diet combined with regular exercise may include the loss of excess body fat, which reduces the mechanical stress caused by excess pounds.

Headaches are usually a sign that something is out-of-balance. Exercise, balanced nutrition, and chiropractic care can help restore balance to our highly stressed lives.

Source: National Headache Foundation - www.headaches.org

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