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Health Check: Can losing weight decrease migraines?

Amy Pavia-Zawacki is checking in at The Miriam Hospital's weight control and diabetes research center.

"I'm really anxious to see if it is going to work," she said.

Pavia-Zawacki is curious to see if a new study she's enrolled in will not only help her lose weight, but cut down on her migraines.

"I get them about, at least a bad one three times a month and I get headaches, approximately, pretty much every day," she said.

And those really bad ones she says are debilitating.

"I miss work and have to be in a dark quiet room and a lot of medication," Pavia-Zawacki said.

The new research is called Women's Health and Migraine (WHAM). It started as a pilot study here at the Miriam with eight women.

"On average, women decreased their headache frequency by more than fifty percent which is a clinical gold standard," said Dr. Dale Bond of the Miriam Hospital.

Bond said the hospital hopes to enroll 140 women, like Pavia-Zawacki, who are clinically overweight and suffer from migraines.

The first four weeks, participants are given a smart phone so doctors can track the frequency and intensity of their headaches.

Research assistant Tiffany LeBlond said if the participants meet the criteria, they are randomized into one of two groups.

"Behavioral weight loss has not been tested before as a treatment for migraine and migraine education. So in the behavioral weight loss group, it's a standard weight loss intervention. So we teach them strategies to help them increase their daily exercise as well as to reduce their overall caloric intake and their fat intake," Bond said.

Pavia-Zawacki is in that group, and in three weeks has lost five pounds.

"I feel like I haven't had a really large debilitating headache since I started cutting the calories. So I don't know if it's coincidence. I'm curious to see if it continues," she said.

The hospital is still enrolling for the study, which is funded by the National Institutes of Neurological Disorders and Stroke. To qualify, you need to be between the ages of 18 and 50, suffer from migraines and be overweight.

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