Study Links Regular Migraines to Cardiovascular Disease

Women who suffer from migraines may be at higher risk of heart attack, stroke, and other conditions.


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Women who endure regular migraine headaches may be more likely to suffer cardiovascular disease and stroke, according to a recent study published in BMJ.

Researchers tracked female participants in the second Nurses’ Health Study for more than 20 years, documenting both fatal and non-fatal incidents of heart disease. They found a “consistent link” between reports of migraines—which affect women roughly four times more often than men—and cardiovascular issues.

Compared to the general population, migraine sufferers seemed to be at a nearly 50 percent greater risk of developing cardiovascular disease overall. Specifically, they were found to have a 39 percent higher risk of heart attack, 62 percent higher risk of stroke, and 37 percent higher risk of fatal heart disease.

These women were also more likely to exhibit signs of hypertension and hypercholesterolemia, conditions that may lead to stroke. Although previous research has already shown a connection between migraines and strokes, this study strengthens the association between the headaches and other diseases.

Since these throbbing headaches plague roughly one in five Americans, the authors of the study strongly urge care providers to more rigorously test all patients with migraines—men included—for vascular conditions. “Because of the high prevalence of migraine, any association between migraine and cardiovascular disease would have a substantial effect on public health,” they note in the paper. “An urgent need exists to understand the biological processes involved.”