Another Link Between Stroke and Migraine Found

WebMD reported on a new study out of the University of Florida Shands Hospital that points to a small increased risk of stroke for women with migraine. The study’s author, Dr. Cecil Rambarat was careful to note that the causes for this increased risk are yet unknown; it may have something to do with the blood vessels over the entire body, but more research is needed.


The new study tracked more than 900 U.S. women who showed signs of heart disease between 1996 and 1999. The average age of the participants was 58, and the majority (80 percent) were white.


During six years of follow-up, 18 percent of the women with a history of migraine headaches had a heart attack or stroke compared to 17 percent of those who didn’t experience migraines, according to Rambarat.


But, the difference became “significant” after the researchers adjusted their statistics to account for other risk factors, Rambarat said. The researchers found that migraine patients were nearly twice as likely to suffer from cardiac problems — such as heart attack or stroke — than those who didn’t have migraines, and had more than double the risk of a stroke specifically, he said.


Although the study doesn’t prove a cause-and-effect link between migraines and strokes, there are several theories about the apparent connection…


…it’s possible that the issue 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, (Gretchen) Tietjen said.


Inflammation — swelling — and higher levels of blood clotting may play a role in both cardiac problems and migraines, she said. The clogged arteries and high blood pressure that contribute to heart disease, however, don’t seem to be connected to migraines, she added.


Tietjen cautioned that there’s no need for women with migraines to panic, especially younger ones, since the risk of cardiac problems is still low. It appears less than 1 percent of strokes are related to migraines in women, she said. “It’s not zero, and it’s not a huge number,” she said.


As for the risk in men, the study didn’t look at whether a similar migraine-stroke connection might exist in them. Rambarat said other research has suggested a link, but he noted that migraines are much less common in men.


Read the full article on WebMD.

Image credit: Viktor Brezinsky via Flickr

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