Migraine linked to risky heart health

February 21, 2005

ST. PAUL, Minn. - People who live with migraine headaches show a "riskier" profile for cardiovascular disease than those without migraines, according to a new study published in the February 22 issue of Neurology, the scientific journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

The large population-based study was conducted among 5,755 participants in the Netherlands. Researchers identified 620 people with migraine in the group from 5,135 people without migraine.

The study provided a cardiovascular risk profile of those with migraine attacks and those who suffer from migraine with aura (a visual or other hallucination that precedes a migraine). One third of those with migraines experienced aura symptoms before a headache occurred.

"For reasons that are not yet clear, people with migraine--particularly those with aura--may be more likely to present with risk factors associated with cardiovascular conditions," said lead author Ann Scher, PhD, of Uniformed Services University of the Health Sciences and the National Institute on Aging in Bethesda, Md. "It is known that migraine with aura increases the risk of stroke before the age of 45, although the reason for this is not yet clear. Understanding the role of classic risk factors for cardiovascular disease in migraine sufferers might help to understand why people with migraine with aura are at increased risk for early-onset stroke."

The study indicates that those with migraine were considered 43 percent more likely to be smokers, though less likely to consume alcohol. People with migraine with aura symptoms were 43 percent more likely to have high cholesterol (240 or greater) and 76 percent more likely to have high blood pressure. They were also nearly four times as likely to report a history of either stroke or heart disease before the age of 45.

Women with migraine were twice as likely to be using oral contraceptives. Women with migraine were also more likely to report a history of high blood pressure during pregnancy (gestational hypertension) than those without migraine.

The findings suggest there may be a shared predisposition toward both migraine and heart disease, said Lenore Launer, PhD, of the National Institute on Aging and the senior author on the study. Men with migraine were almost twice as likely to have a father with a history of early heart attack. Both men and women with migraine overall were 1.78 times more likely to have a mother with a history of early heart attack.
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The study was supported by a grant from the Ministry of Health, Welfare, and Sport and the National Institute of Public Health and the Environment of the Netherlands.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 18,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to improving patient care through education and research. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as epilepsy, dystonia, migraine, Huntington's disease, and dementia.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit www.aan.com.

American Academy of Neurology

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