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National Headache Awareness Week: Get a Head S.T.A.R.T. on Your Headaches

In recognition of the 15th annual National Headache Awareness Week, the National Headache Foundation (NHF) is announcing a series of events across the country in order to educate the public about types of headache and their impact on daily living, as well as stressing the importance of seeking an accurate diagnosis and appropriate treatments. This year’s National Headache Awareness Week takes place June 1-7, 2008. Nearly 21 million people were reached last year through this successful annual campaign.

“One of our primary goals during National Headache Awareness Week is to gain recognition of headache pain as a real and legitimate condition,” said Dr. Seymour Diamond, Executive Chairman of the National Headache Foundation. “Over 45 million Americans get chronic, recurring headaches. Of this number, nearly 30 million have migraine headaches.”

Activities taking place across the country this week include headache screenings, educational seminars led by expert physicians, menstrual migraine awareness events and a 5-part podcast series focusing on women’s headache issues, a radio news release and the launch of a non-profit NHF channel on YouTube.

This year, the NHF is encouraging sufferers to “Get a Head S.T.A.R.T. on Your Headaches,” offering five easy-to-remember strategies for effective headache management and treatment:

  • Seek diagnosis — Obtaining the correct diagnosis for your headache is the first step toward effective treatment.
  • Triggers — Identify and track your triggers (e.g., foods, stress, hormonal and weather changes) by keeping a headache diary and share this information with your healthcare provider.
  • Advocate — Be an advocate. Be informed. Be a participant in your headache care.
  • Resources — Utilize the National Headache Foundation as a resource. Visit www.headaches.org for the latest information about headache causes and treatments, or call 1-888-NHF-5552.
  • Treatment — Successful treatment may include medications and lifestyle changes. Work with your healthcare provider to find the right plan for you.

For the first time, this year’s campaign is drawing specific attention to menstrual migraines by designating Wednesday, June 4th as National Menstrual Migraine Awareness Day. In support of Menstrual Migraine Awareness Day efforts, the NHF will also be releasing new survey data from a recent poll of its website respondents suffering from menstrual migraine.

Additionally, the NHF is hosting a five-part podcast series specifically addressing women’s headache issues including Hormones & Headache, Contraception & Headaches, Pregnancy & Headache, Menopause & Headaches and Menstrual Migraine. Podcasts and expert questions and answers are available through links on the National Headache Awareness Week page.

This post is adapted from a National Headache Foundation press release. -Kerrie

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12 Tips for Coping With Headache

In support of National Headache Awareness Week (which is this week), the National Headache Foundation seeks to increase the quality of life for headache suffers. Based on the findings of the American Migraine Prevalence and Prevention survey, the NHF offers 12 lifestyle-related tips to help all headache patients, migraineurs or not, cope with and, ideally, reduce their headaches.

Work
The NHF asked which work situations might cause added stress and 50% replied worrying about deadlines, with 47% noting unpleasant tasks that they face.

  • Schedule a realistic day. Avoid the tendency to schedule back-to-back appointments for a breathing spell.
  • Allow 15 minutes of extra time to get to appointments. This way, unexpected delays won’t make you late.
  • Make sure your work space is ergonomically designed from your chair to your computer keyboard. Using a non-glare computer screen and proper lighting can also be helpful.
  • If an especially unpleasant task faces you, do it early in the day; then the rest of your day will be free of anxiety.

Home
When asked which home situations might increase their stress levels, 64% highlighted financial worries, while 55% answered fighting with their spouse and/or children. On a positive note, 43% said that spending time with family and friends helps them cope better.

  • Get up fifteen minutes earlier in the morning. The inevitable morning mishaps will be less stressful.
  • Prepare for the morning the evening before. Set the breakfast table, make lunches, put out the clothes you plan to wear, etc.
  • Don’t rely on your memory. Write down appointment times, when to pick up the laundry, when library books are due, etc. Crossing tasks off of your list gives a sense of accomplishment.
  • Don’t put up with something that doesn’t work. If your toaster, alarm clock, windshield wipers-or other item-is a source of aggravation, get them fixed or replace them.

Play
The NHF survey results reported that 63% of respondents felt that not having personal time was a stressor and 60% fail to schedule time out from their activities.

  • Check your breathing throughout the day, and before, during, and after high pressure situations. If you find your stomach muscles are knotted and your breathing is shallow, relax all your muscles and take several deep, slow breaths.
  • Try a yoga technique. Inhale deeply through your nose to the count of eight. Then, with lips puckered, exhale very slowly through your mouth for 16 counts, or for as long as you can. Concentrate on the long sighing sound and feel the tension dissolve. Repeat 10 times.
  • Use your weekend time for a change of pace. If your work week is slow and patterned, build action and time for spontaneity into your weekends. If your work week is fast-paced and full of deadlines, seek peace and solitude during your days off.
  • Allow yourself time every day for privacy, quiet and introspection.

Some of these tips suggest making major changes to your life and routines; not exactly easy, especially if you have severe headaches frequently. As with anytime you make big changes, adopting one new habit at a time will increase your chance of success. After all, you’re trying to reduce stress, not add to it.

Thanks to Teri Robert for the reminder that it’s National Headache Awareness Week.