A new study brings some concerning news for the millions of us who experience migraine headaches. Scientists have found that migraine headaches can be a risk factor for Cardiovascular Disease.
Often called “heart disease,” the term Cardiovascular Disease includes any conditions that affect the heart and blood vessels, such as stroke, heart attack, atrial fibrillation, or irregular heart rate and heart failure.
Based on these findings, the researchers at Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark, as well as at Stanford University in California have stated that we should formally acknowledge that migraine headaches can be a risk factor for Cardiovascular Disease.
➡ As the Migraine Research Foundation points out, a migraine is “not just a bad headache.” Instead, it is a debilitating condition characterized by a recurring, severe pain on one or both sides of the head.
➡ Other symptoms may also be present such as dizziness, nausea, vomiting, sensitivity to light, and visual problems.
➡ Visual or other sensory problems are referred to as “a migraine with aura.”
Some 39 million people in the U.S. are affected by migraine headaches. The attacks can last from as long as 4 to 72 hours.
- 90% of people who experience migraines are unable to carry out their day to day activities as a result.
But according to the research teams, migraines may pose even more serious problems.
Previous research has indicated that people with migraines — especially women — may be more likely to experience cardiovascular problems than those without migraines.
➡ For each person with migraines, the team matched 10 people without migraines who were the same age and sex.
➡ Over a follow-up period of over 19 years, the study revealed that compared with people who did not experience migraines, people with migraines were more likely to have a heart attack, stroke, or atrial fibrillation.
➡ For every 1,000 people with migraines, 45 had an ischemic stroke — caused by a blood clot in the brain — compared with 25 in every 1,000 migraine-free subjects.
➡ Atrial fibrillation occurred in 47 of every 1,000 people with migraines, compared with 34 in every 1,000 people without migraines.
Women with migraines and people who had migraines with aura were found to have the greatest risks of stroke, heart attack, and atrial fibrillation, and the associations were strongest in the first year after migraine diagnosis.
These findings were the same even after accounting for factors such as body mass index (BMI) and smoking status.
This suggests that migraines should be considered a potent and persistent risk factor for most cardiovascular diseases in both men and women.
In an editorial linked to the study, Prof. Tobias Kurth of the Institute of Public Health in Germany and his colleagues say that there is now “plenty of evidence” that migraine headaches can be a risk factor for Cardiovascular Disease.
“We urgently need to determine which specific strategies reduce the additional risk of cardiovascular disease among people with migraines and whether reducing the frequency of attacks has any effect. Public research agencies must act quickly by investing in prospective studies to accomplish this goal.”
If you are a chronic migraine sufferer, I urge you to consult with your physician and ask for a complete physical exam and cardiovascular risk exams, such as EKG’s or scans.
If your doctor laughs at the suggestion or dismisses your concerns, get a new doctor. And I mean that sincerely.
It’s YOUR health, and prevention is always better than regret.