Migraines Increase the Risk of Heart Attacks and Strokes

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Having migraine headaches increases the risk for cardiovascular diseases, a new study has found.

Using the Danish National Patient Registry, researchers matched 51,032 people with migraines, 71 percent of them women, with 510,320 people in the general population without migraines. The subjects were, on average, age 35 at the start of the study, and researchers followed them for 19 years.

The absolute risk for cardiovascular disease was small, unsurprising in a group this young. Nevertheless, after adjustment for other variables, over the course of the study people with migraines had a 49 percent increased chance of heart attack, and roughly double the risk of stroke. They also had a 59 percent increased risk of a blood clot in their veins. These risks were even higher in the first year after a migraine diagnosis.

The observational study, in BMJ, found no association of migraine with peripheral artery disease or heart failure.

“We now have accumulating evidence that migraine is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. It’s important to take it into consideration,” said the lead author, Dr. Kasper Adelborg, a postdoctoral researcher at Aarhus University. “And it’s important to find out if the agents that prevent migraine could also reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease.”