Migraines vary by gender

When it comes to migraines, sex matters. So much so that migraines in men and migraines in women should be considered "different diseases altogether," Harvard scientist Nasim Maleki recently told Scientific American. According to the article, women are as much as three times as likely as men to experience the debilitating headaches and their associated symptoms, including halos, auras and the smell of sulfur.

Maleki also found that in women with migraines, the posterior insula and the precuneus — areas of the brain responsible for motor processing, pain perception and visuospatial imagery — were "significantly thicker and more connected" than in men who have migraines. Additionally, the tissue in the posterior insula does not thin with age as it should. It "starts thick and stays thick," the article said.

While Maleki said she doesn't know what this thickening means, she sees it as an indication that there are fundamental differences between the sexes vis-à-vis migraines.

"For treatment, that knowledge could make a huge impact."

Apps to soothe your soul

Smartphones and tablets that enable us to stay constantly connected aren't exactly synonymous with rest and relaxation. But a slew of new apps and online programs are trying to turn tech devices into tools for taking it easy. The September issue of Shape magazine looks at options suitable for different budgets.

"Stress Free Now" is a six-week e-course on mindfulness offered by the Cleveland Clinic. For $40, students receive daily e-mails and weekly hourlong instructional sessions through the program's website.

"GPS for the Soul" uses an iPhone to measure heart rate. Just put your finger over the camera lens, and the app counts your beats per minute. The free app includes short meditative guides that can help slow your breath and heartbeat.

"Wild Divine," developed with the help of lifestyle gurus Deepak Chopra and Andrew Weil, offers digital meditation games designed to be used with a biofeedback device that attaches to the fingers and monitors your level of relaxation. The device and video game software don't come cheap, though: Various packages begin well above $300.

Washington Post