A recent study confirms what many of us have experienced — that stress can lead to headaches. The study found that people who reported headaches had more stress compared to those who never reported headaches. What’s more, that stress could be caused by a deficiency in vitamin B.
Researchers collected data on more than 5,000 people aged 21 to 71. Four times a year for two years, the participants were quizzed about their levels of stress and headaches.
Each time, they were asked to rate their stress level on a scale of zero to 100 and recount how many headaches they had a month. 31 percent of the participants had tension-type headaches, 14 percent had migraines, 11 percent had migraines combined with tension headaches and 17 percent had unclassified headaches.
People with tension headaches scored their stress level at an average of 52 out of 100. For those with migraines, it was 62 out of 100, and the stress level was 59 out of 100 for those who suffered migraine and tension headaches. Rising stress was clearly connected to an increase in the number of monthly headaches.
For those with tension headaches, a 10-point increase on the stress scale was associated with a 6.3 percent increase in the number of headaches, the researchers found. Among those who suffered migraines, the number rose 4.3 percent for a 10-point increase in stress, and for those with both headache types, it rose 4 percent.
To be sure stress was the culprit, researchers ruled out other factors associated with headaches, including drinking, smoking and frequent use of medication to treat headaches.
The study confirms the widely held belief that chronic stress is a major trigger of all types of headaches in people young and old. This is important and suggests that identifying sources of chronic stress, and utilizing strategies directed toward elimination or modification of stress, including meditation, deep breathing exercises and muscle relaxation techniques, can be very effective in reducing the frequency of all types of headaches, particularly tension headaches.
If you’re looking for another way to reduce stress, examine your vitamin B intake. Several studies have linked high doses of B vitamins with reduced symptoms of stress, which may occur because the B vitamins work to lower serum homocysteine levels. High levels of this amino acid are associated with stress and increased risks of heart disease, dementia, and colorectal cancer.
In one 12-week study of 60 participants with work-related stress, researchers found that those who took two forms of a vitamin B complex supplement had fewer work-related stress symptoms such as anger, fatigue, and depression compared with placebo.
Supplementing with B vitamins as part of a multi-vitamin and mineral supplement may improve mood and stress via lowering homocysteine levels, according to several studies.