Women With Migraines At Increased Risk For Heart Disease And Stroke


Women who are diagnosed with migraine have a slightly elevated risk of developing cardiovascular issues, mainly heart attack and stroke. They are quite more likely to die from these diseases than other women not suffering from migraines, a new study has revealed.

Migraine has been associated consistently with a higher stroke risk, but not a lot of studies have linked it with cardiovascular condition and death. Some experts think that migraine should be deemed an important marker for cardiovascular disease, although further research is necessary to investigate the link and find out whether migraine treatments could help decrease the related risks.

U.S. and German researchers then conducted a large prospective study evaluating the said associations, analyzing health data from more than 115,000 women involved in the Nurses’ Health Study II. The subjects were from ages 25 to 42, had no cardiovascular illness and were tracked from 1989 to 2011.

About 17,500 women or 15.2 percent had a diagnosis of migraine. After two decades, results showed that there were 1,329 cardiovascular disease cases that developed, with 223 females dying from the illness.

The risks for major cardiovascular events – such as heart attack, stroke and angina – emerged higher among migraine-afflicted women than those who weren’t. Cardiovascular death was also higher in the group across age ranges and subgroups.

“Women with migraine should be evaluated for their vascular risk,” the authors concluded, pushing for preventive strategies to reduce the risks that surfaced for female migraine patients.

Previous studies show a connection between women with migraines – specifically headaches preceded by signs such as dizziness or ringing in the ears – and a greater risk of suffering both ischemic and hemorrhagic strokes. The former type of stroke results from blood flow being blocked in the brain, while the latter is caused by a rupture in blood vessels.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr. Rebecca Burch of Harvard Medical School said the findings offer quality proof of migraine as a risk factor in this spectrum of conditions, but added that the severity of the risk should not be overstated.

“[I]t is small at the level of the individual patient, but still important at a population level because migraine is so prevalent,” she explained.

One in four American women experiences migraines.

The findings were published May 31 in the The BMJ.

Photo: R. Nial Bradshaw | Flickr

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