Warmer weather and longer days are a boon for your mood, but adjusting to summer's erratic temperatures and humidity fluxes can make you 36 percent more likely to suffer fun-killing headaches, Harvard University researchers say. To the rescue: these easy, study-proven strategies that prevent head pain before it starts.
Soak up the sun.
Whether you lounge on the patio or play with your pup, spending 20 minutes in the sun each day will cut your risk of tension headaches in half, plus prevent migraines as effectively as prescription meds, Spanish researchers report. Neurologist Mario Peres, MD, explains sun exposure increases your daytime production of vitamin D-3 and your nightly release of melatonin, nutrients that relax scalp and neck muscles and reduce painful blood vessel inflammation.
Ease into movement.
Moving for 30 minutes each day will cut your risk of summer headaches by 55 percent, suggests research in the journal Cephalalgia. Study co-author Emma Varkey, PhD, says that exercise prods the brain to release natural painkillers called endorphins. But sudden increases in exertion trigger brain pain for 50 percent of headache sufferers, so ease into activity with five minutes of stretches.
Sip lemon water.
Squeeze the juice of a fresh lemon into a 24-oz. bottle of water and sip it throughout the day to reduce your risk of hot-weather headaches by 25 percent, Dutch researchers suggest. A steady trickle of fluids prevents summer’s number-one headache trigger — mild dehydration — while lemon’s aromatic fruit acids calm overactive pain nerves in your neck and scalp. Tip: You’ll get 30 percent more juice out of a lemon if you microwave it on high for 10 to 20 seconds before slicing.
Savor a spinach omelet.
Spinach is at its peak freshness now, and enjoying 1 heaping cup daily could cut your risk of summer headaches by 42 percent. Australian researchers say this leafy green brims with plant compounds that reduce ache-triggering inflammation in blood vessels in the brain and raise your pain threshold, so weather fluxes don’t cause headache flares.
This article originally appeared in our print magazine.