Migraine puts women at risk of heart disease

2 June 2016

Yet more evidence has emerged that migraine should be considered an important indicator of risk (risk marker) for heart and stroke disease, at least in women.

A 20-year follow-up study of more than 115,000 women shows those with migraine have a greater risk for major cardiovascular disease than women who do not suffer from the condition.

The Harvard-led research team say their findings suggest women with migraine should be routinely assessed for their vascular risk.

“We found an approximately 50% increased risk for major cardiovascular disease,” they write in The BMJ. “This association persisted after adjustment for traditional vascular risk factor and was apparent for myocardial infarction, stroke, and coronary artery procedures as well as for angina.”

In addition, migraine was associated with a higher risk for death from cardiovascular causes.

“The results of our study support the findings of other population based studies linking migraine with increased risk of cardiovascular disease,” continue the study authors led by Professor Tobias Kurth.

“Although most studies link migraine with aura with increased risk of ischemic stroke, emerging evidence indicates that this risk extends to other cardiovascular disease as well.”

However, they say possible causes are yet to be determined. Furthermore, no data exist on whether prevention of migraine attacks reduces these risks.

In a linked editorial, Dr Rebecca Burch from Harvard Medical School and Dr Melissa Rayhill from The State University of New York caution that the magnitude of risk should not be overemphasised.

“It is small at the level of the individual patient, but still important at a population level because migraine is so prevalent,” they write.  Nonetheless, they agree “it’s time to add migraine to the list of early life medical conditions that are markers for later life cardiovascular risk”.