WebMD Medical News
Louise Chang, MD
Feb. 10, 2010 -- People who suffer from migraine headaches may be much more
likely to have a heart attack as well as a host of risk factors for heart
disease, according to a new study.
Although the overall risk was small, researchers found that people who have
migraines were twice as likely to have a heart attack, and people who have
migraines with aura were nearly three times more likely to have a heart attack,
than others. Migraines with aura are preceded by sensations such as seeing
The study also shows that people with migraines are more likely to have
major risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure, diabetes,
and high cholesterol, which may partially explain this increased risk of heart
"Our results provide another reason for people with migraine to reduce other
risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and obesity," says
researcher Marcelo E. Bigal, MD, PhD, of Merck Research Laboratories and the
Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, N.Y., in a news release.
However, even after adjusting for these underlying risk factors for heart
disease, researchers found people with migraines were still more likely to have
a heart attack, stroke, or evidence of peripheral artery disease (a buildup of
plaque in the arteries usually in the legs or arms).
The study compared the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other risk factors
for heart disease among 6,102 people with migraine headaches and a comparison
group of 5,243 people without headaches who were surveyed about their
The results, published in Neurology, showed that 4.1% people who had
migraines had a heart attack compared with 1.9% of the rest. The risk of heart
attack was nearly three times greater for people who experienced migraine with
aura than for people without migraines.
People with migraines with aura were also nearly three times more likely to
have had a stroke.
The risk of other underlying risk factors for heart disease, such as high
cholesterol, diabetes, and high blood pressure, was highest among those with
migraine with aura, but it was also elevated among those with regular
Researchers say previous studies have suggested that only people with
migraine with aura were at increased risk for heart disease. But these results
While the overall risk of heart problems in people with migraine headaches
is small, the researchers say it is significant and higher compared to the rest
of the population, which merits further research.
SOURCES:Bigal, M. Neurology, Feb. 10, 2010; vol 74: pp 628-635.News release, American Academy of Neurology.
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