Recent research indicates that women with migraine may be more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. Find out more.

New research presented at a recent meeting of the American Headache Society shows a possible link between cardiovascular disease and migraine: A large study found that women migraineurs were 1.52 times more likely to have cardiovascular disease, including stroke or heart attack.

Here’s a look at the preliminary findings.

The Nurses Health Study

The new research was part of the Nurses Health Study, which has followed female RNs in the U.S. since 1989. This was a large study of more than 115,000 women that collected information regarding current health every two years for six years. The study, completed through questionnaires, had excellent response rates of up to 90 percent. The health status of the women was followed for more than 20 years in all.

The study reported an overall prevalence of 18 percent of women having migraines. The study also found that women who experience migraines were also more likely to have a stroke or heart attack.

It’s worth noting that the women who reported having a migraine diagnosis also had other factors that upped their risk of cardiovascular disease, like high body-mass index, a history of hypertension, and smoking to name a few.

The study also had several limitations, including the fact that migraine diagnoses was self-reported, which could lead to misclassification of migraine.*

Previous Research Highlights Migraine With Aura

Additionally, the study results did not differentiate between migraines without aura and migraines with aura (an “aura” is defined as visual symptoms that can appear before a migraine, like geometric patterns, flashing lights or possibly a shimmering effect).

This is unfortunate because previous studies have shown that women with this type of migraine have an increased risk for cardiovascular disease. 1 For example, a study from 2010, called the Women’s Health Study, followed over 27,000 women for more than 11 years. In this study, women self-reported whether they had experienced migraines. Women with migraines with aura had twice the risk of having cardiovascular disease compared to women without a history of migraines.

Risk Factors for Cardiovascular Disease

More studies, especially targeted ones, are needed to examine the link between cardiovascular disease and migraines. But generally, it is important to understand your risk for cardiovascular disease and discuss any concerns with your doctor, as other medical conditions may increase your risk for cardiovascular problems. Your doctor can help you understand these factors.

*See a doctor for diagnosis of migraines and migraine relief options.

Show References

Hide References

1. Migraine, Migraine Features and Cardiovascular Disease. Headache. 2010 June 1; 50(6): 1031–1040. doi:10.1111/j.1526-4610.2009.01609.x. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pmc/articles/PMC2891199/



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