PAPER: Headaches in teens related to lifestyle factors..

August 20, 2010 - The study was conducted to examine the relationship between recurrent headache disorders (i.e., migraine and tension-type headache) and lifestyle factors (overweight, low physical activity, and smoking) in an unselected population study among adolescents.

PAPER: An unfavorable lifestyle and recurrent headaches among adolescents. The HUNT Study, L. Robberstad, G. Dyb MD, PhD, K. Hagen MD, PhD, L. J. Stovner MD, PhD, T. L. Holmen MD, PhD, and J. A. Zwart (, MD PhD, Neurology, published online before print August 18, 2010, ABSTRACT..

In this cross-sectional study from Norway, a total of 5,847 students age 13 to 18 were interviewed about headache complaints and completed a comprehensive questionnaire including items concerning physical activity and smoking. In addition, they underwent a clinical examination with height and weight measurements. Adolescents with high physical activity who were not current smokers and not overweight were classified as having a good lifestyle status. These students were compared to those with 1 or more of the negative lifestyle factors present in regard to headache diagnosis and headache frequency.

Out of the group, 36 percent of girls and 21 percent of boys reported having recurrent headaches within the last year. A total of 16 percent of the students were overweight, 19 percent were smokers, and 31 percent exercised less than twice a week.

The results from the present study show that overweight, smoking, or low physical activity are independently and in combination associated with recurrent headache among adolescents. The associations observed and the additive effect of these negative lifestyle factors on the prevalence of recurrent headache indicates possible targets for preventive measures.

Teens with all three of the negative lifestyle factors were 3.4 times more likely to have frequent headaches than those with none of the negative lifestyle factors. Of those with all three negative lifestyle factors, 55 percent had frequent headaches, compared to 25 percent of those with no negative lifestyle factors. Those with two negative factors were 1.8 times more likely to have frequent headaches.

Overweight teens were 40 percent more likely to have frequent headaches than those with no negative factors. Teens who smoked were 50 percent more likely to have frequent headaches, and teens who exercised less than twice a week were 20 percent more likely to have frequent headaches than those who exercised at least twice a week and had no other negative factors.

Study author John-Anker Zwart, MD, PhD, of the University of Oslo said the study suggests that the treatment and prevention of headaches in teens may need to include management of healthy habits such as regular exercise, healthy food choices and stopping smoking.

"These lifestyle factors have rarely been studied in teens," said Andrew D. Hershey, MD, PhD, of the University of Cincinnati College of Medicine and a member of the American Academy of Neurology, who wrote an editorial accompanying the study. "This study is a vital step toward a better understanding of lifestyle factors and potential preventive measures that can be taken." (EDITORIAL: Lifestyles of the young and migrainous, Andrew D. Hershey and Richard B. Lipton, Neurology, first published on August 18, 2010)

Related study: Smokers Have More Migraine Attacks,

Reference: Headaches in teens tied to overweight, smoking and lack of exercise, EurekAlert, 8/18/2010.