Migraine headaches as a risk factor for cardiovascular disease among women

In a BMJ journal, a study describing the relationship between the occurrence of migraine among women and the increased risk of cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack or stroke, was published. An increased mortality rate for these diseases in the population of women with migraine headaches was also observed.

Migraine is a chronic neurological disease manifested by attacks of headaches, which are usually unilateral, throbbing and last 4-72 hours, being accompanied by symptoms such as nausea, vomiting , photophobia, phonophobia and hyperosmia. In about 20% of cases, a migraine attack is preceded by the onset of aura in the form of paresthesia, defects in the visual field, blurred vision or paresis . The incidence is highest between the age 25-50. The disease occurs among about 18% of women and 8 % of men and 70% of migraineurs have a positive family history in a first-degree relative.

The relationship between migraine and the incidence of stroke was reported earlier, however, there is a relatively little research showing a correlation between migraine headaches and cardiovascular disorders and mortality because of them. Therefore, a team of American and German scientists decided to investigate the possible relationship.

The study included 115 541 women of the age 25-42, free from the diseases of the cardiovascular system. 17 531 ( 15.2 % ) of them reported the occurrence of migraine headaches. After 20 years of observations, 1,329 cardiovascular events were observed among the women who suffered from migraine, and 223 of them died because of the disease.

It has been observed that, as compared to women who weren’t reporting the occurrence of migraines, the women who experienced migraine headaches, the risk of the diseases of the cardiovascular system, such as coronary heart disease, stroke or heart attack, was higher.

Moreover, an increased mortality rate was observed in this group of women.

Similar correlations were observed in subgroups of women, while taking into account age, smoking status , prevalence of hypertension, taking hormone replacement therapy or oral contraceptives.

As the researchers highlight, there is a need for a follow-up of women diagnosed with migraine, for the risk of the diseases of the cardiovascular system. It is necessary to conduct further research to find potential causes of these correlations and develop prevention of these diseases among women with migraine headaches .

Written by: Karolina Dudek, Kai Wróblewski, Małgorzata Wołowik

1. Kurth T, Winter AC, Eliassen AH, Dushkes R, Mukamal KJ, RimmEB6, WillettWC, Manson JE, Rexrode KM. Migraine and risk of cardiovascular disease in women: prospective cohort study.BMJ. 2016 May 31;353.
2.Sacco S, Kurth T. Migraine and the risk for stroke and cardiovascular disease. Curr Cardiol Rep. 2014 Sep;16(9):524.
3.Headache Classification Subcommittee of the International Headache Society: The International Headache Disorders Classification, Second Edition. Cephalalagia, 2004, 24, Suppl. 1, 1-150.
4.Gilmore B, Michael M. Treatment of Acute Migraine Headache. Am Fam Physician. 2011,Feb1;83(3):271-280.

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