Headaches can be nasty things — especially migraines. They can pound and throb and make you feel miserable. There are all sorts of theories out there about what causes headaches.
Some say that most headaches are tension-based. If you walk around long enough with your neck, shoulders, arms and back tense, eventually you’re guaranteed to get a headache. Nothing’s worse than planning a special night out and suddenly getting hit with a migraine.
Others believe that certain foods trigger headaches. Caffeine, dairy, red meat, chocolate, food additives, and
refined sugars have all been labeled as potential culprits. There are also those who believe that hormone imbalances, eyestrain, anxiety, hunger, and even constipation can bring on a headache.
But what if you’ve ruled out of all of these potential causes and you still don’t know what’s causing your headache? Here is something else to consider: a faulty valve in the heart could be the cause of headaches in at least 25% of the population.
In the womb, before you were born, a small opening was present between the two chambers of your heart. This opening, called a “patent foramen ovale” (PFO), helped to make circulation more efficient. The opening of the PFO rested between two overlapping sections of tissue that formed a division between your left atrium and your right atrium.
When you were born, the flaps of the PFO fused together to form a solid wall called the “septum.” That is, if you’re not part of the 25% of the population in which the flaps didn’t fuse together.
Those who find themselves in this category now have a PFO that works like a valve. It stays closed most of the time. However, if pressure builds up in the chest, the valve will open. When the PFO valve is open, unfiltered blood can cross from the right atrium of your heart to the left atrium.
The usual route would be through the lungs. Researchers now believe that the unfiltered blood can trigger migraines in some people.
Armed with this knowledge, cardiologists are wondering if a heart procedure might be the key to relieving chronic and severe migraines. Closing the PFO valve permanently could prevent unfiltered blood from triggering migraines.
Other strategies you can try in the battle against headaches include massage therapy to release tension, maintaining good posture, minimizing exposure to chemicals and perfumes, and keeping hydrated by drinking lots of fresh water. Also, try to eat small meals more often to stabilize swings in blood sugar that can trigger migraines.