Quick Study: Migraines may be linked to higher risk of cardiovascular problems

Tuesday, March 2, 2010


Migraines may be a sign of higher risk

THE QUESTION Are cardiovascular problems more common in people who have migraines?

THIS STUDY analyzed data on 11,345 adults, including 6,102 who had frequent migraines. Heart attacks occurred about twice as often among people who had migraines as they did among those who did not experience the headaches, and strokes were 1.6 times as likely. People who had migraines with aura -- sensations such as flashes of light or tingling in an arm or leg before an attack -- had about three times the risk of those with no headaches.

WHO MAY BE AFFECTED? People who have migraines, which are intense headaches with throbbing pain, sensitivity to light and sound, and often nausea. Women are three times more likely than men to have migraines.

CAVEATS The actual risk for cardiovascular problems was low: 4 percent of participants with migraines had a heart attack and 2 percent had a stroke. Data came from the participants' responses to questionnaires and did not differentiate by migraine severity or frequency. The study was funded in part by Merck & Co.; three of the seven authors were its full-time employees, and two others received fees from the pharmaceutical company.

FIND THIS STUDY Feb. 10 online issue of Neurology.

LEARN MORE ABOUT migraines at http://www.ninds.nih.gov and http://www.mayoclinic.com.

-- Linda Searing

The research described in Quick Study comes from credible, peer-reviewed journals. Nonetheless, conclusive evidence about a treatment's effectiveness is rarely found in a single study. Anyone considering changing or beginning treatment of any kind should consult with a physician.

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