Groups at Risk for Headaches

According to one study, 45 million Americans experience headaches each year. Other research suggests that at least 70 percent of the population experiences a headache in their lifetime due to illness, injury or hangover. Headaches are a common occurrence that can be triggered by any one of hundreds of factors, however there are some factors that may put a person at a higher risk of experiencing headaches. For example, women are three times more likely than men to develop migraine headaches. Teenagers and adults who are obese, smoke and have little exercise are significantly more likely to develop migraines than those without all three lifestyle factors.

Migraines: In 2010, researchers discovered the first-known genetic determinant of migraine headaches. A variation in the segment of DNA that controls the brain chemical glutamate contributes to a higher risk of migraine headaches. As nearly 30 million Americans live with regular migraine headaches, a further understanding of how the build up of glutamate causes headaches may one day help in the treatment of this condition. However, much more testing and research will be required before the relationship of glutamate and migraine is clear. Approximately 90 percent of migraine headache sufferers can trace migraines in their family history.

Tension-type headaches: Risk factors for tension-type headaches include being a woman, as it's been found that 90 percent of women and 70 percent of men will experience a tension-type headache at some point. Also, the occurrence of tension-type headaches tend to peak during middle age. Smoking and little physical exercise are common factors for tension-type headache patients.

Cluster headaches: The incidence of cluster headaches has been shown to be affected by age and gender. Men are at higher risk of experiencing a cluster headache, and sufferers of cluster headaches commonly develop their first cluster headache during their 20's. Smoking and alcohol use are also common factors in those suffering from cluster headaches. A family history of cluster headaches is common among those who experience them.

Generally, the following groups are at risk of increased incidence of headaches:

  • Obese
  • Smokers
  • Excessive exercisers
  • Those who don't get enough exercise
  • Excessive alcohol drinkers
  • Highly stressed individuals