Chronic headaches affect a large proportion of the population and represent one of the most frequent causes of medical consultation. Part genetics, part diet, and so many unknown factors, migraine and headaches undermine the lives of those affected. Some natural tips can help you reduce the intensity and frequency of migraines.
Most of these headaches are called “tension” headaches, which means that they are caused by stress, bad lifestyle habits (overconsumption of alcohol, lack of sleep) or even by muscle problems and skeletal in the neck or jaw. Although they cause very unpleasant pain, like a vice-like grip on the head, tension headaches can often be treated with painkillers or lifestyle changes that reduce contraction of the muscles. neck and head muscles (a change in posture at work, for example). Migraines are distinguished from tension headaches by the high intensity of the pain experienced as well as the difficulty in effectively treating this pain. Affecting approximately 15% to 20% of the world’s population, migraines are frequent, chronic headaches of high intensity, which are sometimes preceded by sensory disturbances called “aura”, such as the appearance of visual spots (scotomas), flashes (phosphenes) or numbness. These are truly very disabling headaches, associated with a major deterioration in the quality of life of those affected.
Migraines often affect members of the same family
Migraines often affect members of the same family, which has led to the belief that genetic factors, transmitted by heredity, contribute to the development of these headaches. The rapid development of DNA sequencing techniques has recently made it possible to identify certain regions of the genome which are associated with a greater susceptibility to being affected by migraines.
DNA analysis of 23,285 migraine sufferers showed that certain DNA sequence changes in 12 regions were associated with an increased risk of developing the disease. Since most of these regions are involved in the production of proteins known to participate in the transmission of nerve impulses, it therefore seems that the development of migraines is caused by a dysfunction of nerve impulses in the brain caused by alterations in the structure of some proteins. According to a recent study, one of these proteins could be casein kinase I delta. By analyzing the genome of a family whose members were affected by migraine with aura, American researchers noticed the presence of a mutation in the structure of this enzyme and a significant reduction in its effectiveness. This loss of function plays an important role in the pathology of migraine. The precise identification of a protein as directly responsible for the development of migraines would therefore make it possible to develop a new generation of antimigraine drugs specifically targeting the function of this protein.
Some good actions to prevent migraines and headaches
In the meantime, prevention remains the best weapon available to people affected by migraine. Most migraine sufferers are able to identify one or more factors that increase their risk of developing a migraine and may thus reduce the frequency or intensity of attacks. For example, stress, anxiety, and sleep disturbances are well-known migraine triggers, and it’s important to adopt a balanced lifestyle to deal well with the many stressful situations we constantly face. Certain foods that are rich in nitrates (cold meats) or tyramine (aged cheeses), chocolate, red wine or coffee are also often associated with migraines and their exclusion from eating habits can prevent many headaches.
Anttila V et al. Genome-wide meta-analysis identifies new susceptibility loci for migraine. Nat Genet.
Brennan KC et al. Casein kinase I mutations in familial migraine and advanced sleep phase. Sci Transl Med, 5:183ra56:1-11.
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