Migraines Linked to Higher Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke in Women. A picture of hands around a person's head

Women who experience migraine with aura have an increased hazard of cardiovascular disease according to a study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain. In the study, researchers collected data from about 28,000 participants of the Women’s Health Study (WHS) to estimate the effect of nonmigraine headache and migraine.  The participants, all 45 years and older, were followed during a median of 22.7 years. During the time frame, 5,222 women reported having migraine, 1,440 experienced migraine with aura, and 2,200 experienced migraine without aura.

Research found that women who suffer from migraine with aura have a 50% increased risk of heart attack, stroke or open heart surgery compared to women who do not have migraines. Specifically, the risk of heart attack is 39% higher, stroke is 62% higher, and heart surgery is 73% higher. These associations remained even after other risk factors such as age, high blood pressure, and smoking status, were accounted for.

This study only included women. The study would need to be duplicated to see if men may be affected similarly. However, study authors encourage those who have migraine headaches to have their doctor evaluate cardiovascular risk. There are other ways to lower risk of heart disease such as a healthy diet, daily exercise, and managing blood pressure.

Sources:

Rohmann JL, Rist PM, Buring JE, Kurth T. Migraine, headache, and mortality in women: a cohort study. The Journal of Headache and Pain. 2020 Dec;21(1):1-8.

Kurth T, Winter A, Eliassen A, et al. Migraine and risk of cardiovascular disease in women: prospective cohort study. BMJ, 2016; 353:i2610.

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