Frequent migraines may increase the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks, stroke, blood clots and an irregular heartbeat, suggests new study.
According to the authors, migraines should be considered when assessing the risk factors for cardiovascular disease among men and women. The study was recently published in the latest issue of The BMJ.
Migraines are a severe form of headache characterized by a throbbing pain. They can also be accompanied by other symptoms such as sensitivity to light or nausea.
Although migraines can develop at any age, they usually start during adolescence or early adulthood and almost 90% of people have experienced a migraine before 40 years of age. Usually, attacks are confined to one part of the head and last from 4 to 72 hours.
While some people experience attacks several times a week, others only develop a migraine occasionally, with the headaches sometimes occurring years apart. In some cases, migraines are triggered by certain factors that individuals learn to avoid such as eating a particular food or stress.
Previous studies have connected migraines to and stroke and heart attacks, especially among women. But a connection between migraines and other heart problems has not been explored before.
Researchers from Aarhus University Hospital, Denmark and Stanford University, USA attempted to find this link.
The team collected patient data from the Danish National Patient Registry between 1995 and 2013 which included information from over 51,000 people. The researchers looked at people who had been diagnosed with migraine and compared each person to at least ten individuals who never had migraine.
They looked at the incidence of heart attacks, stroke, peripheral artery disease, blood clots and fast and irregular heart rate. They corrected the data to account for a history of smoking and obesity.
Results showed that for every 1000 patients with these heart conditions, 25 had migraine and 17 were migraine free. In addition, 45 patients with migraine had a stroke for every 25 migraine free patient.
Migraine was not found to be associated with heart failure and peripheral artery disease in the study. Stroke was most strongly associated compared to other conditions.
According to authors, pain relievers taken long-term by patients experiencing frequent migraines could be one of the reasons behind the increased risk of heart problems. The increased risk of blood clots is thought to be due to the immobilization of migraine patients during attacks.
“Migraine should be considered a potent and persistent risk factor for most cardiovascular diseases. Ultimately, it will be important to determine whether prevention strategies in patients with migraine can reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease,” concluded the authors.