A risk factor is something that increases your likelihood of getting a disease or condition.

It is possible to develop headaches with or without the risk factors listed below. However, the more risk factors you have, the greater your likelihood of developing headaches. If you have a number of risk factors, ask your doctor what you can do to reduce your risk.

Risk Factors for Tension Headache

Specific Lifestyle Factors

Emotional stress, fatigue, or anger can result in tension headaches. Other risk factors include smoking and having too little physical activity, and too little sleep.

Medical Conditions

Certain conditions are associated with tension headaches and tightening of the muscles in the neck, face, and scalp. These include:

    
  • Depression
  • Anxiety
  • Teeth clenching or grinding
  • Gum chewing in children
  • Sleep apnea
  • Arthritis in the neck
  • Being overweight
  • Risk Factors for Migraine

    Specific Lifestyle Factors

    Lifestyle triggers can vary from person to person. Some reported triggers include

        
  • Skipping meals
  • Too much or too little sleep
  • Emotional events
  • Smoking
  • Depression or anxiety
  • Excessive alcohol use and hangovers
  • Loud or sudden noises
  • Certain foods can also trigger a migraine. Keep a food diary to help you learn which foods or food additives may cause your migraines. Triggers may include

        
  • Aspartame
  • Caffeine or caffeine withdrawal
  • Alcohol
  • Chocolate
  • Aged cheeses
  • Monosodium glutamate (MSG)
  • Certain fruits and nuts
  • Fermented or pickled goods
  • Cured or processed meats
  • Medications

    Use of certain medications may trigger a migraine, including:

        
  • Birth control pills or hormone replacement therapy; there may be some relationship between female hormones and migraines
  • Headache remedies used on a daily or near daily basis
  • Age

    The highest incidence is in teenage years.

    Gender

    Migraine headaches are more common among females.

    Genetic Factors

    Migraines seem to run in families.

    Other

    Migraines may be triggered by blood vessels overreacting to a variety of factors, including:

        
  • Menstruation
  • Fatigue
  • Changes in altitude, weather, or time-zone
  • Glaring lights
  • Perfumes or other odors
  • Risk Factors for Cluster Headache

    Specific Lifestyle Factors

    Cluster headaches seem to occur more often in smokers.

    Medical Conditions

    Having head surgery or a head injury increases your risk of cluster headache.

    Age

    Risk is greatest between 20-50 years old.

    Gender

    Males are at greater risk for cluster headaches than females.

    Risk Factors for Sinus Headache

    Medical Conditions

    Certain medical conditions increase nasal secretions and cause swelling in the tissues lining the nasal passages. These changes lead to nasal congestion and stuffiness. The nasal passages become blocked and normal drainage cannot occur. Secretions that are trapped in the sinuses may become infected with bacteria or, rarely, fungus. The swollen tissues or infection may create pain and pressure.

    Conditions that increase sinus pressure and increase your risk of sinus headache include:

        
  • Allergies
  • Persistent cold or upper respiratory infection
  • Ear infections
  • Nasal polyps
  • Nasal deformities, such as a deviated septum
  • Cystic fibrosis
  • Problems with the immune system
  • Prior sinus surgery
  • Facial injuries that block sinus passages