If you are a migraine sufferer, you are well aware of how devastating they can be. New research is uncovering unexpected new links between severe headaches and other health problems.
According to one study, those who suffer from migraines are more prone to develop a serious—and potentially life-threatening—a heart problem.
According to a new study, if you have migraines, your chance of having a heart attack doubles.
People who suffer from migraines, particularly migraines with aura (MA), are already at a higher risk of stroke, according to research. Using this research as a foundation, a 2016 study published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) sought to better understand the broad range of heart disorders that may be related to migraines.
In a study of 115,541 women between the ages of 25 and 42, the researchers found that migraines were associated with an elevated risk of severe cardiovascular disease (CVD), particularly heart attack. According to corroborating research, repeated migraines may potentially double the risk.
The authors of the BMJ article stated that, in addition to increasing the likelihood of a heart attack, migraines increase the likelihood of “cardiovascular mortality”—death from a cardiac episode.
Females are not the only ones at risk.
The BMJ study (and several others) solely recruited female individuals, most likely because women are three times more likely than males to suffer from migraines. However, specialists believe that men and women may be equally at risk of a cardiovascular incident if they have recurring migraines with aura.
“Although many prior studies have demonstrated increased risks in women with migraine with aura, an emerging body of evidence is showing similar risks in men,” according to a 2008 study published in the medical journal Current Atherosclerosis Reports.
However, one possible risk factor that only impacts women is the use of oral contraceptives. As a result, women who have had migraines with aura on many occasions may want to talk to their doctor about alternative types of birth control, according to the study.
What’s behind this link.
According to the American Migraine Foundation, there is “strong evidence that migraine increases the risk of heart disease, such as myocardial infarction (heart attacks) and angina.” (Angina is chest pain caused by a decrease in blood flow to the heart.) They are, however, still attempting to determine the precise association between migraine and coronary problems.
“The mechanisms are unknown, but likely involve inflammation, coagulation, and dysfunction of endothelial lining of the arteries,” adds the health organization.
According to a 2018 study published in the journal Cephalalgia, women who suffer from migraine headaches are more likely to acquire hypertension or high blood pressure, than those who do not. Because high blood pressure is a known risk factor for heart attack, it may contribute to the increased risk.
This can help reduce your risk of having a heart attack.
Experts are unsure if treating or avoiding migraines may reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease or having a heart attack.
“Ultimately, it will be important to determine whether MA is a modifiable risk factor for CVD and if preventive medications for migraine or anti-platelet therapy might reduce the risk of CVD in patients with MA,” says a 2009 study published in the journal Neurology.
Until we know more, doctors urge that people who suffer from migraines, particularly those who see an aura, focus on aspects over which they have control and which have been shown to benefit heart health. These include quitting smoking, eating a healthy diet, and obtaining regular exercise. It’s also critical to keep your blood pressure, blood sugar, cholesterol, and stress under control.
If you get frequent migraines, especially those with aura, talk to your neurologist or another healthcare professional about the impact this may have on your general health.
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