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Migraine aura carries heart risk

22nd November 2006

15052006_gym1.jpgWomen who experience migraine headaches with flashing lights, known as aura, are at greater risk of cardiovascular diseases than those who do not, US research has shown.

Researchers at the Harvard Medical School and the Harvard School of Public Health followed 27,840 nurses and other female health professionals aged 45 and older, over an average period of 10 years.

They found that those who endured migraines with aura were twice as likely to also suffer stroke or a heart attack as those who did not, including those who suffered migraine but with no flashing lights.

Active migraine without aura was not associated with increased risk of any cardiovascular event, including coronary revascularisation and angina, researchers found.

The study took advantage of the ongoing Women's Health Study in the United States, which is tracking 39,876 female health professionals aged 45 years and older who were free of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other major illnesses when they enrolled between 1992 and 1995.

During an follow-up period of 10 years, 3,610 women had reported migraines within the past year, 1,434 of them with aura. The splitting headaches and pulsating lights not only matched an increased risk of stroke but also a strikingly higher risk of other major cardiovascular diseases.

They raised the risk of death from major cardiovascular diseases by a factor of 2.3, compared with those without migraine with aura.

Researchers advised those with migraine with aura to build up their defenses against heart disease and stroke in the same way as other people would, through healthy diet and exercise, and not smoking.

The reason for the link was unclear, they said, nor is it known whether successfully treating migraine with aura would reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other heart diseases. 

 

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