Migraines could point to cardiovascular problems in women

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Research shows that women with migraines may be 50% more likely to experience a cardiovascular event

Those who suffer from migraines know the excruciating pain that they can bring, but could they also be indicative of greater health problems? One study, led by researchers from the Institute of Public Health (IPH), shows that this might be the case.

The researchers, led by head of IPH Tobias Kurth, have investigated a connection between women who experience migraines and a heightened risk of stroke, heart attack, and other cardiovascular problems. They found that, within their sample, women who experienced migraines were 50% more like to have a cardiovascular event when compared to those who did not.

Important risk marker

While past research has shown a connection between migraines and risk of stroke, this study is one of only a few that has attempted to tie the condition to other cardiovascular problems and mortality. Researchers looked at data on over 115,000 women who had taken part in the U.S.-based Nurses’ Health Study II.

Of all the participants in that study, the researchers found that migraines affected just over 15% of participants between the ages of 25 and 42 – or approximately 17,531 women. Over a 22-year period between 1989 and 2011, these individuals were tracked for cardiovascular events; 1,329 participants ended up experiencing such an event, with 223 deaths being recorded as a result.

“Our analysis suggests that migraine should be considered an important risk marker for cardiovascular disease, particularly in women,” said Kurth.

Higher cardiovascular risks

The researchers determined that the amount of additional risk varied depending on which cardiovascular events were taken into account. However, the results were not very favorable for any of the cases.

In addition to a 50% heightened risk for cardiovascular events compared to women without migraines, outcomes for heart attack, stroke, and angina were also higher.

“When compared to women unaffected by the condition, the risk of developing a heart attack was 39% higher for women with migraine, the risk of having a stroke 62% higher, and that of developing angina 73% higher,” said Kurth.

While the researchers believe in the accuracy of these statistics, the underlying causes behind them are still relatively unknown. Further research will also need to be conducted to measure outcomes for men, who were not included in the study.

The full study has been published in the journal BMJ

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