Lifestyle factors link to headaches

Teenagers who are overweight, get little exercise, or smoke, have a higher risk of recurrent headaches as compared to others.

Headaches are among the top five physical complaints of teens, even more frequent than asthma.

To clarify the effects of lifestyle factors on headache, researchers followed 5,847 teenagers from Norway, aged 13 to 18 years old, who were asked to complete a comprehensive questionnaire regarding their physical activities and smoking habits.

Overall, 36 percent of girls and 21 percent of boys reported that they had recurrent headaches in the previous year. Tension-type headaches were most common, but one-quarter of girls with recurrent headaches reported migraines.

It was found that each of the three factors overweight, low physical activity and smoking was linked to an increased risk of headache problems, after taking into account the other two lifestyle factors age and gender.

Nearly 55 percent teenagers who were overweight, less active or smoked reported headaches, compared with 24 percent of teenagers who were normal weight, non-smokers and exercised at least twice per week.

Overweight teens were 40 percent more likely to have recurrent headaches than their peers with none of the three negative lifestyle factors.

Those with low activity levels had a 20 percent increase in their risk, and smokers had a 50 percent increase.

The study shows that excess weight, smoking, and low physical activity are risk factors for recurrent headache among teenagers.