Migraine with aura may boost heart risk

Middle-aged women who suffer severe migraines alongside aura symptoms are at increased risk of potentially fatal cardiovascular events, report US researchers.

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By  Joanne Bladd Published  August 16, 2006

Middle-aged women who suffer severe migraines alongside aura symptoms are at increased risk of potentially fatal cardiovascular events, report US researchers. The team, from Brigham and Women’s Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health in Boston, found that women who had migraines without aura were not at increased risk. The study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA), followed 27,840 women aged 45 or older for ten years from the early 1990s. At the start of the study, 5,125 women (18.4%) reported that they have a history of migraine. Of the 3,610 who had experienced migraine in the previous year, just under 40% reported aura symptoms. During the course of the study, there were 580 major cardiovascular events such as heart attack, stroke and angina. There were 130 deaths from cardiovascular disease. Subjects who experienced migraine with aura had a significantly increased risk of stroke, heart attack and other serious heart conditions, and death from CVD. It is unclear what causes the link, although previous research has shown migraines with aura were linked to strokes caused by blood clots. When age was taken into account, there were 18 additional CVD events per 10,000 women per year, which could not be directly linked to migraine with aura. Dr Tobias Kirth, who led the study, said: “Since migraine without aura is far more common, our data demonstrates no increased risk of CVD for the majority of migraine patients. “Future research should focus on a better understanding of the relationship between migraine, aura status and cardiovascular event.” In an accompanying JAMA editorial, Dr Richard Lipton and Dr Marcelo Bigal, from Albert Einstein College of Medicine, said the same genetic flaw, linked to increased levels of homocysteine, is seen in CVD and migraine with aura. They said: “For patients with migraine with aura, clinicians should have heightened vigilance for modifiable cardiovascular risk factors, such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking.”

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