Women suffering with migraines are at an increased risk of mortality from cardiovascular diseases than women who do not have migraine, finds a new study.
Migraines are believed to be due to a mixture of environmental and genetic factors. About two-thirds of cases run in families. Changing hormone levels may also play a role, as migraines affect slightly more boys than girls before puberty and two to three times more women than men.
A study of more than 100,000 women from the US found that those who reported getting migraine headaches had a 50% higher risk of having or dying from a heart attack, stroke or heart disease.
“Our analysis suggests that migraine should be considered an important risk marker for cardiovascular disease, particularly in women,” said lead researcher Tobias Kurth, Head of the Institute of Public Health (IPH) at Charite – Universitatsmedizin Berlin, a teaching hospital in Germany.
This is when a migraine is preceded by warning signs and symptoms, such as visual problems or feeling dizzy. We don’t know whether migraine is a direct cause of these problems.
Their findings are based on an analysis of data collected as part of the US-based Nurses’ Health Study II.
A team of US and German researchers analysed data from more than 115,500 women enrolled in the Nurses’ Health Study II.
The participants were aged between 25 and 42 years at baseline and free from cardiovascular disease and, of them, 17,531 reported a physician’s diagnosis of migraine.
Between 1989 and 2011, cardiovascular events were observed in 1,329 of these women; 223 died as a result.
“The risk of developing cardiovascular events was shown to be 50 per cent higher in women with a diagnosis of migraine,” Kurth said.
“When compared to women unaffected by the condition, the risk of developing a heart attack was 39 per cent higher for women with migraine, the risk of having a stroke 62 per cent higher, and that of developing angina 73 per cent higher,” Kurth explained.
The results were published in the British Medical Journal.
The researchers said that further research would be necessary in order to identify the underlying causes responsible for the links between migraine and cardiovascular diseases.
The question of whether male migraine sufferers also have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease remains to be elucidated.