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Q. What can I do to prevent migraines? I just started getting them and am wondering if I should see a doctor.

A. Migraines have been linked to certain foods such as beer and wine, aged cheeses, chocolate, overuse of caffeine, salty and processed foods as well as food ingredients such as aspartame and monosodium glutamate. Stress, changes in wake-sleep patterns, intense physical exertion and a change in weather or barometric pressure can also prompt a migraine. Additional triggers are sensory stimuli, such as bright lights, loud sounds and unusual smells.

Women are three times more likely than men to experience migraines, and migraines are often related to family history. They can begin at any age, but have been linked to hormonal changes such as before or shortly after an onset of menstruation. For some women, hormonal medications such as oral contraceptives and hormone replacement therapy may also worsen migraines.

While you cannot control certain migraine triggers, you might find that monitoring your diet, changing your sleep routine or meditation may help.

It’s always a good idea to see your physician with any health concerns. I recommend talking to your doctor about your migraines so he or she can determine if they are related to something else and discuss possible treatment options. For example, you may benefit from prescribed medication to reduce migraine severity or frequency.

To prepare for your appointment, bring a record of your attacks and how you treated them. Try to note how long they lasted, the foods you ate, any unusual stress and what you’re doing when migraines strike.

In the meantime, if you begin to experience signs or symptoms of a migraine, such as a visual aura where you see various shapes, bright spots or flashes of light, try an over-the-counter pain reliever such ibuprofen, acetaminophen or something specific to migraine relief. Medicine and getting rest in a dark room may prevent symptoms from worsening.

—Dr. James Bancroft, RWJ Family & Internal Medicine, Robert Wood Johnson University Hospital Hamilton

This content is intended to encourage a healthy lifestyle. For medical advice and treatment, see a physician.