Headaches Over 50

Headaches Over 50
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By Kitt Walsh

The good news: Once you get past the are of 50, migraine headaches you may have suffered from your whole life might be getting better. You may get them less and the symptoms of nausea or vomiting or sensitively to light might get less severe.

The bad news: You might get a new kind of migraine and the tension headaches you have might be getting worse. Also, if you were one of the lucky few who never got headaches, they may start.

You may get some of the old migraine symptoms, like visual or sensory changes, but little or no headache. This form of a migraine starts after age 50 and is called transient migraine accompaniments. Visit your doctor who will also check your history to see if something underlying is happening, like temporal arteritis where the large arteries of your head become inflamed (much more common in people over 55) and one of the symptoms is headache (usually a throbbing in the temple kind.) It is very treatable.

Now, what about those tension headaches?

Why is it that you may have finally retired from that stressful job and now you get the tension headaches?  It’s possible that, despite having looked forward to the days you wouldn’t have to get up and go to the office, you may find yourself a bit rootless and unsettled by the change and may start experiencing a slight depression. Don’t take such minor depression lightly, doctors advise, or else it may turn into severe depression. Talk to your heath care professional and do what he or she advises to treat the depression. Your new headaches may, in turn, disappear.

What else might be causing your headaches?

Your dentures might not fit. Unlined or poorly fit dentures put pressure on your gum and other teeth that can cause pain in the sinuses.

Your glasses need changing. I went recently to the ophthalmologist to find my prescription had actually gotten weaker making my glasses too strong, causing headaches. Also get checked for glaucoma, you may be trying to see “around” a blind spot that has developed in one or both eyes.

You may be having a drug interaction or reaction to a new prescription. Blood pressure medicine and many other commonly used drugs list headache as a possible side effect (and sorry, men, erectile dysfunction pills are right up there.)

Menopause and the roller coaster of hormones and their loss can give you headaches.

Poor lighting can cause eyestrain and headaches. For reading, have a bright light shining over your shoulder onto the page.

Misalignment of your skeleton can cause pain. The space between your neck vertebrae starts to break down and everything begins to get more compressed. The result can be pinched nerves and headaches.

You aren’t sleeping as well as you once did. As we age, we sleep in shorter stretches and/or may suffer more from insomnia. Such sleep deprivation can cause headaches.

You may be allergic. Allergies can develop at anytime and it might be a simper as becoming allergic to pollen or dust. Even an over-the-counter remedy like Claritin can help. (Don’t use nasal sprays. They may make the problem worse!)

What to do:

Don’t just pop over the counter pills like you did when you were younger. We are more prone to developing bleeding ulcers now. Also some anti-inflammatory drugs can make high blood pressure worse. Also headache meds may affect conditions we tend to develop over the age of 50 like glaucoma, chronic lung diseases, diabetes and enlarged prostates. Kidney and liver function slows down, too, so we can’t process the drugs out of our system so quickly and the buildup can be toxic.

Try ice. Lie on an icepack (or bag of frozen peas) or put on over your forehead for 20 minutes.

Lie in a quiet, darkened room. If you can, take a nap. Even a quick one may “reset” your head.

Loosen your shoes, belt and anything else restricting free blood flow throughout your body. Tight bras and shoulder straps that cut into you count too. Put down (forever) that heavy shoulder bag. Fanny packs are the ticket.

Take a steamy shower to help sinus pain.

Massage your temples and/or press firmly on the skin between your thumb and index finger. Hold firmly for 30 seconds and release.

Get some fresh air. Take a walk. Take deep, cleansing yoga breaths.

Do some gently stretching of neck, back and shoulders.

Get a massage. A facial helps too.

Use aromatherapy. Put a few drops of lavender or geranium essential oil on a piece of cotton and inhale deeply.

Make sure you are hydrated. Drink lots of water.

Eat something. Though a sugary caffeine drink will appear to help quickly, it will drop your blood sugar into the basement soon after. Better to try a handful of nuts and fruit and chew slowly.

Quit drinking alcohol.

Wear sunglasses. Squinting causes headaches.

Increase the font size on your computer. Go to the “accessibility features” and see how to make type bigger and the contrast deeper. Avoid eyestrain and take a break often.

Don’t sweat the small stuff–and remember, it is all small stuff.

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