Researchers have identified a gene called methyleneterahydrofolate reductase that might put women suffering from migraine with aura at an increased cardiovascular risk.
"This gene by itself does not appear to increase the risk for overall and for specific cardiovascular disease, but rather this research suggests a possible connection between the gene variant and migraine with aura," said study author Tobias Kurth, MD, ScD, with Brigham and Women's Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston, MA. Kurth is also a member of the American Academy of Neurology.
During the study, the researchers followed 25,001 Caucasian women for the occurrence of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and ischemic stroke.
About 18 percent of the women in the study had a history of migraine while 40 percent of those with active migraine reported migraine with aura, often accompanied by visual disturbances and last foe about 30 minutes.
During a 12-year follow-up, 625 cardiovascular disease events occurred.
They found that women who had both the gene variant and migraine with aura had more than three times the risk of cardiovascular disease, which was driven by four times the risk for stroke compared with women who did not have the gene variant and no history of migraine.
"While it is too early to start testing young women with migraine with aura for this gene variant, more focused research will help us to understand these complex links and will help us to potentially develop preventative strategies," said Kurth.
"Doctors should try to reduce heart disease risk factors and advise young women who experience migraine with aura not to smoke and to consider birth control pill alternatives as these increase the risk of ischemic vascular problems," Kurth added.
The study is published in the July 30, 2008, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.