Migraine tied to higher risk of cardiovascular diseases

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People with a history of migraines may be more likely to develop cardiovascular problems like heart attacks, stroke, and an irregular heart beat than individuals who don’t experience these headaches, a Danish study suggests.
While migraines have long been linked to an increased risk of heart attacks and stroke, the current study offers fresh evidence that these headaches may also be tied to other types of cardiovascular problems, said lead author Dr. Kasper Adelborg of Aarhus University Hospital in Denmark.
“Now accumulating evidence supports that migraine should be considered as a risk factor for most cardiovascular diseases in both men and women,” Adelborg said by email. “Although the absolute risks of cardiovascular diseases were low at the individual level, it translates into a substantial increase in risk at the population level, because migraine is a very common disease,” Adelborg added.
Up to one in five people get migraines, a chronic, often debilitating disorder characterized by severe headaches as well as symptoms like nausea and intense sensitivity to sight or sound, researchers note in The BMJ. For the study, researchers examined data on 51,000 patients who had been diagnosed with migraines and a control group of more than 510,000 similar people who did not have migraines.
In the migraine group, most of the patients were women and were typically diagnosed for the first time when they were around 35 years old. At the start of the study, none of the participants had suffered a heart attack, stroke, peripheral artery disease, heart rhythm disorders, clots in the deep veins of their legs, or heart failure.
After 19 years of follow-up, 2,451 people with migraines had at least one of these cardiovascular problems, and 575 people had more than one. Compared with the control group of people who didn’t get migraines, those who did were roughly twice as likely to have a stroke, 49 percent more apt to have a heart attack, 59 percent more likely to have clots in the veins in their legs, and 25 percent more likely to experience an irregular heartbeat.
A migraine history didn’t appear to influence the risk of heart failure or peripheral artery disease, however. The absolute risk of these heart problems was low. Over the study period, 25 in every 1,000 people with migraines had a heart attack, compared with 17 out of every 1,000 individuals without a history of these headaches.
Similarly, 45 in 1,000 people with migraines experienced the most common type of stroke, compared with 25 out of every 1,000 people without a migraine history.