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Gonzalo Malpartida via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-SA
Gonzalo Malpartida via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-SA

Study Suggests Migraine Triggers Vary Widely

Gonzalo Malpartida via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-SA
Gonzalo Malpartida via Flickr Creative Commons // CC BY-SA

If you’ve ever had a migraine, this probably won't come as a surprise to you: Everybody’s migraine triggers are different, says a new study published in the journal Cephalalgia.

If you’ve never had a migraine, count yourself very, very lucky—both medically and statistically. Migraine is the third most common illness in the world; in America, it affects someone in nearly one out of every four households. And the symptoms go well beyond a bad headache; for many people, migraine attacks cause extreme light and sound sensitivity, nausea, vomiting, and facial tingling or numbness. The effects are so debilitating that more than 90 percent of sufferers report being unable to work or function normally once a migraine hits.

What sets off a migraine? That’s the million-dollar question. If we can identify migraine triggers, we might be able to help people eliminate or at least avoid them. But doing so has proven to be tricky. Previous studies of large groups of migraine patients identified a list of common triggers, but it’s a long list, and there was no evidence that the most common triggers affected people the same way.

An international team of researchers decided to find out just how unique each person’s triggers are. They compiled information from 326 migraine patients, each of whom had kept a diary for 90 days, noting when they experienced any of the 33 most common triggers or hints a migraine was coming. Using the diary data, researchers were able to generate trigger profiles for 87 percent, or 283, of the participants.

In analyzing those profiles, the researchers found that the so-called common triggers weren’t really very common at all. Only eight of the top 33 appeared to trigger migraines, and 85 percent of the 283 participants were unique in their trigger profiles. That is, the combination of things that could potentially set off their migraines were unique.

On top of that, they found that people prone to migraines didn’t have one trigger, or two. On average, they had four. That’s four incredibly common things—like caffeine, stress, poor sleep, cheese, alcohol, or neck pain—that each person has to avoid. There’s nothing fun about migraine prevention, but it is infinitely more fun than actually having a migraine.

Christian Wöber leads the headache department at MedUni Vienna's Department of Neurology. "For the very first time,” he said in a press statement, “this new analysis therefore provides information about the correlation between migraine attacks and a broad spectrum of possible trigger factors for each individual patient and is therefore a step towards personalized migraine management."

Like so many medical studies, this one comes with a big caveat. One of the paper’s authors, Stephen Donoghue, is the vice president of clinical research at Curelator, a company that sells a $50 app that tracks migraine triggers. (Some neurologists may also offer it to their patients for free.) There’s no doubt that identifying your migraine triggers is a good thing, but these results should nevertheless be taken with a grain of salt.

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Why You Should Think Twice About Drinking From Ceramics You Made by Hand
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Ceramic ware is much safer than it used to be (Fiesta ware hasn’t coated its plates in uranium since 1973), but according to NPR, not all new ceramics are free of dangerous chemicals. If you own a mug, bowl, plate, or other ceramic kitchen item that was glazed before entering the kiln, it may contain trace amounts of harmful lead.

Earthenware is often coated with a shiny, ceramic glaze. If the clay used to sculpt the vessel is nontoxic, that doesn’t necessarily mean the glaze is. Historically, the chemical has been used in glazes to give pottery a glossy finish and brighten colors like orange, yellow, and red.

Sometimes the amount of lead in a product is minuscule, but even trace amounts can contaminate whatever you're eating or drinking. Over time, exposure to lead in small doses can lead to heightened blood pressure, lowered kidney function, and reproductive issues. Lead can cause even more serious problems in kids, including slowed physical and mental development.

As the dangers of even small amounts of lead have become more widely known, the ceramics industry has gradually eliminated the additive from its products. Most of the big-name commercial ceramic brands, like Crock-Pot and Fiesta ware, have cut it out all together. But there are still some manufacturers, especially abroad, that still use it. Luckily, the FDA keeps a list of the ceramic ware it tests that has been shown to contain lead.

Beyond that list, there’s another group of products consumers should be wary of: kiln-baked dishware that you either bought from an independent artist or made yourself. The ceramic mug you crafted at your local pottery studio isn’t subject to FDA regulations, and therefore it may be better suited to looking pretty on your shelf than to holding beverages. This is especially true when consuming something acidic, like coffee, which can cause any lead hiding in the glaze to leach out.

If you’re not ready to retire your hand-crafted ceramic plates, the FDA offers one possible solution: Purchase a home lead testing kit and analyze the items yourself. If the tests come back negative, your homemade dishware can keep its spot on your dinner table.

[h/t NPR]

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Marathon Running Won't Undo Poor Lifestyle Choices, Study Suggests
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Even marathon participants can't outrun an unhealthy lifestyle, according to a new study highlighted by The New York Times.

For years, expert opinion has been mixed on whether long-distance running helps or hurts hearts. In the 1970s, research suggested that marathon running and a heart-healthy diet would completely prevent atherosclerosis (a buildup of harmful plaque in the arteries). But since high-profile runners have died of heart attacks, scientists in the 1980s began to worry that running might actually harm the vital organ. Compounding this fear in recent years were studies suggesting that male endurance athletes exhibited more signs of heart scarring or plaques than their less-active counterparts.

Experts don't have a verdict quite yet, but researchers from the University of Minnesota and Stanford and their colleagues have some good news—running doesn't seem to harm athletes' hearts, but it's also not a panacea for heart disease. They figured this out by asking 50 longtime marathon runners, all male, with an average age of 59, to fill out questionnaires about their training, health history, and habits, and then examining them for signs of atherosclerosis.

Only 16 of the runners ended up having no plaque in their arteries, and the rest exhibited slight, moderate, or worrisome amounts. The men who had unhealthy hearts also had a history of smoking and high cholesterol. A grueling training regime seemed to have no effect on these levels.

Bottom line? Marathon running won't hurt your heart, but it's not a magic bullet for poor lifestyle choices.

[h/t The New York Times]

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