- Women with a history of headaches had an 83% higher risk of a stroke or heart attack.
- Such a link between stroke and migraine was not known earlier.
- Women who have migraines should avoid smoking, control cholesterol to reduce the risk of stroke.
Researchers studied 917 women who were being evaluated for heart disease and found those that had a history of migraines were at higher risk of a future cardiovascular event - notably stroke.
‘Doctors need to factor in migraine headaches as a potential risk factor for cardiovascular disease among women.’
AdvertisementThe researchers tracked more than 900 U.S. women who showed signs of heart disease between 1996 and 1999 in the new study. The average age of the participants was 58, and the majority (80 percent) were white. During six years of follow-up, about 18 percent of the women with migraine history had either a heart attack or stroke.
Dr. Rambarat said that it is not yet very clear as to why there is a connection, but he thinks that health care providers should be aware of the link. "This is important since migraine is generally not considered a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Maybe providers need to factor in migraine headaches as a potential risk factor for cardiovascular disease among women. This is not being done currently," he said.
There are a lot of theories linking migraines and strokes. It is possible that the reason may lie in blood vessels as a whole, not just those in the brain, since the vessels play a role in strokes, other kinds of cardiac conditions and migraines.
Dr. Gretchen Tietjen, director of the Headache Research and Treatment Center at the University of Toledo College of Medicine and Life Sciences in Ohio said: "Since both affect the brain, it's easier when you try to draw the link between migraine and stroke instead of migraine and heart disease," she said.
Professional Association of German Neurologists (BDN) said that migraines affect a high number of the general population, mostly women. About 1 in 5 females have migraine headaches. But experts say that women should not panic just yet since the rate of stroke resulting from migraines is just less than 1 percent, so more research is needed. To control the risk factors for heart disease, Tietjen advised that women who have migraines should avoid smoking, control cholesterol and be cautious about estrogen-based birth control pills because they may increase the risk of stroke.