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Measuring stress levels may help predict onset of migraines, study finds

A new forecasting model could help predict migraine attacks and allow doctors to treat them with preventative therapies.

Researchers found that a model based on measuring stress may help forecast future migraine headache attacks in those who develop them frequently.

The findings, published in the journal Headache, suggest that it may be possible to predict the occurrence of a migraine attack based on stress levels experienced the day before.

Lead author Dr Tim Houle, associate professor of anaesthesia and pain medicine at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, said: 'We know that certain people are at greater risk of having an attack over other people, but within a person, we have not been able to predict increased risk for an attack with any level of accuracy.

'This study demonstrates that it is quite possible to forecast the occurrence of a headache attack within an individual headache sufferer.'

The study looked at 95 individuals over 4,195 days of diary data and found that patients experienced a headache attack on 38.5% days.

The researchers said that a simple forecasting model using either the frequency of stressful events or the perceived intensity of these events had ‘promising predictive value.’

While the participants reported low to moderate levels of stress overall, stress was greater on days preceding a headache.

Dr Houle said that work would be needed to make the prediction models more accurate before they will be of widespread clinical use.

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