Nothing puts a damper on your day quite like a headache. Whether it’s sharp or dull, throbbing or stabbing, the pain often springs up out of nowhere, and unless you’ve got pain-killers on hand, the misery may last for hours. According to the American College of Physicians, seven in 10 people, or 45 million Americans, experience at least one headache in a given year.  Fortunately, this common malady is rarely serious, and can be prevented by making some simple life changes. Here are five precautions you can take to reduce your risk of another nuisance in the noggin:

  1. Work on your posture.

    That pain in your head is most likely the result of a pain in the neck: a tension headache. Over-the-counter medicine can provide temporary symptomatic relief, but if you really want to stop the headaches at the source, you’ll need to take care of that pesky muscle strain.

    Keep your shoulders back, your chin up, and imagine that your spine is being held up by an invisible string stretching from the crown of your head right down to your toes. It sounds silly, and if you’re a life-long slouch, you’ll probably have to remind yourself to correct your posture frequently. Fortunately, we offer plenty of products that can help with this problem, like the Briggs Posture Corrector.

  2. Stay hydrated.

    The human body is 65% water, so it only follows that less H20 + electrolytes = more misery. When the body loses water and salts, it can’t maintain optimal chemical balance, and dehydration sets in, frequently accompanied by a nasty headache. The Institute of Medicine has determined that men require 13 cups of beverages a day; women need 9 cups. 

  3. Take a break from staring at your phone/television set/computer.

    I know, I know – our tech toys are essentially extensions of ourselves, and it’s hard to imagine a world without them. But an all-day Netflix marathon can force your eyeballs into overtime, and cause a massive headache. In order to prevent eyestrain and the headaches that arise from it, most doctors recommend taking one 10-minute break for every hour spent in front of a screen. Placing a heat pack over your eyes is another effective solution.

  4. Take time to relax.

    The stresses of your day-to-day routine don’t just affect your psyche; they’re a common headache trigger for many people. You can’t eliminate all of your obligations with the snap of a finger, but you can reduce their physical effects. Set aside time each day – as little as 15 minutes, but ideally around an hour or so – to relax. Yoga, meditation and deep breathing have all been proven to cut down on stress, as have seemingly menial things like looking at a favorite photo or listening to that one song on the radio that you really like. Make a conscious effort to relax each day, and you’ll probably find your headaches growing infrequent.

  5. Pay attention to triggers

    Headache triggers vary widely from person to person, but over the years, scientists have singled out several common culprits. If you suffer from frequent headaches, consider reducing your exposure to the following, or at least stay aware:

    • Changes in weather or barometric pressure
    • Strong scents (perfume, cologne, flowers)
    • Aged cheese
    • Processed meats
    • Red wine
    • Nicotine
    • Caffeine (and caffeine withdrawal)
    • MSG
    • Chocolate

In a sense, headache prevention is like detective work. The next time you get that familiar dull pain setting in, think about all the things you’ve recently eaten, done, or even thought about, and be sure to share your observations with your doctor - they can help you come up with a plan for a pain-free lifestyle.