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Stroke: This May Be the Second Greatest Risk Factor After High Blood Pressure Everyone Should Know – But Probably Doesn’t

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A stroke represents a critical and potentially fatal medical event that occurs when there is an interruption in the brain’s blood supply. The brain, governing all bodily functions, relies on blood for oxygen delivery.

Deprivation of oxygenated blood initiates a shutdown process in the brain. When this interrupted flow affects a particular brain region responsible for a specific body function, that body part will not operate optimally, as highlighted by the American Stroke Association (ASA).

The prevalent stroke type is ischemic stroke, resulting from a clot that impedes the brain’s blood supply. Alternatively, a stroke can be hemorrhagic, attributed to a rupture in a blood vessel that obstructs blood flow to the brain. Some strokes, known as transient ischemic attacks or “mini-strokes”, can be triggered by temporary clots, as stated by the ASA.

According to a 2021 Neurology journal review, stroke ranks second in global causes of disability and death. An estimated 137,000 individuals succumb to stroke annually in the United States alone.

There are several risk factors that increase the likelihood of experiencing a stroke, including high blood pressure, obesity, raised blood cholesterol levels, smoking, and older age.

According to a new study published today in the open-access journal PLOS Medicine, people who have migraines are also at a heightened risk for an ischemic stroke. However, women alone might have an additional risk of heart attack and hemorrhagic stroke.

There is a belief that individuals diagnosed with migraines with aura face a higher risk of heart attack or stroke before reaching 60. Earlier research has proposed that the escalated risk of ischemic stroke – resulting from a clot obstructing a brain vessel – primarily affects young women.

However, it remained uncertain whether women with migraines also have an increased risk of heart attack and hemorrhagic stroke – resulting from a brain artery rupture – in comparison to men, which this new research aimed to clarify.

Hvitfeldt Fuglsang and their team undertook a comprehensive nationwide study utilizing Danish medical records spanning from 1996 to 2018. Their focus was on individuals aged 18 to 60, and they examined the medical history of men and women with migraine, comparing their risk of heart attack, ischemic stroke, and hemorrhagic stroke before the age of 60 to that of the general population without migraine.

Contrary to previous research findings, their analysis revealed that both men and women with migraine faced a similarly heightened risk of ischemic stroke. However, women with migraine appeared to have a slightly higher risk of heart attack and hemorrhagic stroke when compared to men with migraine and the general population.

These results indicate that women are disproportionately affected by migraine, which aligns with the fact that migraine is predominantly diagnosed in women. The researchers acknowledge that their study’s reliance on prescription drug records to identify migraine patients may have overlooked untreated individuals, potentially leading to an underestimation of migraine’s contribution to these health issues. Given that heart attacks and strokes can result in lifelong disabilities or even mortality, the researchers emphasize the importance of identifying individuals at elevated risk to facilitate targeted preventative therapies.

“Migraine was associated with a similarly increased risk of ischemic stroke among young men and women. However, migraine may be associated with an increased risk of myocardial infarction and hemorrhagic stroke only among women.”

Image Credit: Getty

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