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America's Migraine Hot Spots

Everybody gets a headache now and then, but did you know that the severe headaches known as migraines affect over 29 million Americans? Unfortunately, migraine is as difficult to fully understand as it is prevalent. Our study spotlights those U.S. cities with the highest prevalence of factors that are most commonly associated with migraine.

Top ranked

There is a higher prevalence of migraine factors in these places.

  1. Cincinnati, OH-KY-IN
  2. Madison, WI
  3. Little Rock-North Little Rock, AR
  4. Knoxville, TN
  5. St. Louis, MO-IL
  6. Nashville, TN
  7. Johnson City-Kingsport-Bristol, TN-VA
  8. Chattanooga, TN-GA
  9. Greenville-Spartanburg-Anderson, SC
  10. Canton-Massillon, OH

Bottom ranked

These places have fewer factors associated with migraines.

 

  1. New Haven-Bridgeport-Stamford, CT
  2. Boston-Worcester-Lawrence, CT
  3. McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, TX
  4. El Paso, TX
  5. New York, NY
  6. Salinas, CA
  7. Miami, FL
  8. Honolulu, HI
  9. Los Angeles, CA
  10. Fresno, CA

(click here for the complete rankings of 110 cities)

"Migraine is more prevalent than asthma and diabetes, yet many people who experience migraine symptoms don’t seek medical help," said BestPlaces President Bert Sperling. “We hope this study helps increase national awareness of migraine."

Patterns and Trends

Each of the top 10 migraine “hot spots” had high rates of migraine-related drug prescriptions, but that’s where the commonality stops. Cincinnati and St. Louis have high scores in lifestyle factors and food triggers, while Little Rock and Nashville’s ranking are due to environmental factors. A few of these lifestyle factors that have been shown to trigger migraines include irregular sleep patterns and stress. Common food triggers include chocolate and red wine, while rapidly changing weather and extreme temperatures are among the environmental triggers.

While Cincinnati presents the most overall challenge to migraine sufferers, other cities rank highest in individual categories. For example, Madison has the highest (worst) score for lifestyle factors, Lexington has the greatest number of migraine-related drug prescriptions, Albuquerque has the highest score for environmental triggers and York, PA has the highest score for consumption of migraine-triggering foods.

On The Bright Side

Eight of the 20 bottom ranked cities for migraines are in California. The lowest ranked migraine city, New Haven-Bridgeport-Stamford, has the lowest consumption of migraine-triggering foods. The Boston, MA area (the second lowest ranked city for migraines) has one of the lowest prescription rates, and the second lowest score for food triggers. The third-lowest ranked city for migraines, McAllen-Edinburg-Mission, has the lowest per-capita migraine prescription rate. Buffalo-Niagara Falls, NY has the best score for environmental migraine triggers while Memphis, TN has the best score for lifestyle factors.

Methodology

The ranking is based on four categories of data, compiled in March 2006:

  1. The number of migraine-related drug prescriptions per capita (Triptan-class drugs)
  2. Lifestyle factors that can contribute to migraines (hours worked, overtime worked, plane travel, frequency of vigorous exercise, frequency of having trouble sleeping, frequency of sunburn)
  3. Environmental factors that can trigger migraines (rapidly changing weather, extreme temperatures, divorce rate, commute time, crime rate, suicide rate)
  4. Consumption of migraine-triggering foods (citrus fruits and juices, cheese, chocolate, pickles, sour cream, nuts, alcohol, pizza, coffee, tea, cola, hot dogs, sausage, peanut butter)

Prevention and Treatment

It is estimated that 18% of women and 6% of men suffer from migraines in the U.S., with people age 25-55 being most affected.

Statistics suggest that dealing with migraines can be confusing and frustrating:

  • Migraine is misdiagnosed (as tension or sinus headache) as frequently as it is correctly diagnosed.
  • Only half of all Americans who may be appropriate candidates to receive preventative migraine therapy actually do.
  • About half the individuals who have migraine attacks stop seeking care for their headaches.

In order to improve diagnosis and treatment, experts suggest scheduling an appointment with your doctor with the specific purpose of discussing migraine. Such a discussion is the starting point for successful migraine treatment.

About Sperling's BestPlaces

Bert Sperling has been helping people find their own "Best Place" to live, work and retire for nearly 20 years. His firm, Sperling's BestPlaces, puts facts in the hands of the public so they can make better decisions about best places to live, work, retire, play, or relocate. More information about Bert and his studies is available at www.bestplaces.net.

About Ortho-McNeil Neurologics, Inc.

Headquartered in Titusville, N.J., Ortho-McNeil Neurologics, Inc., focuses exclusively on providing solutions that improve neurological health. The company currently markets products for Alzheimer’s disease, epilepsy, and acute and preventive migraine treatment. Ortho-McNeil Neurologics, Inc., in conjunction with internal and external research partners, continues to explore new opportunities to develop solutions for unmet healthcare needs in neurology.