Women who suffer migraines might be at higher risk for heart disease, a new study has found. Photo by kizzzbeth/Flickr
June 9 (UPI) -- Women who suffer migraines with aura might be at increased risk for heart disease, an analysis published Tuesday by JAMA has found.
Women older than 45 with a history of migraines were more than twice as likely than those with obesity and high cholesterol to have a heart attack or stroke or be diagnosed with another cardiovascular condition, the researchers said.
Women with high blood pressure and migraine -- extremely painful headaches that can cause vision problems and other complications -- were at four times higher cardiovascular disease, or CVD, risk, researchers said.
"The association of migraine and migraine with aura on overall and specific CVD events has been evaluated using relative risk in many clinic- and population-based studies," researchers at Charité-University Medicine Berlin and Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston wrote in the study.
And while several biological mechanisms are thought to link migraine to cardiovascular events, they wrote that "the precise mechanisms linking migraine with aura to CVD coincidence are still not well understood."
Earlier research, however, has linked migraine-related complications such as endovascular impairment and inflammation to CVD.
For the new study, researchers reviewed data from the U.S. Women's Health Study on nearly 28,000 women 45 years old and older. They tracked the health of study participants with no history of heart disease from 1992 through the end of 2018.
In all, approximately 5 percent -- or 1,435 -- of the women in the study suffered from migraine with aura, the authors said.
Women with a history of migraine with aura were found to 2.29-times as likely to suffer a heart attack or stroke than those with a history of obesity, the authors said.
The risk for heart disease was 2.85-times as high among women with migraine with aura than in those with high cholesterol, they added.
However, the risk for heart disease remained higher in women with diabetes -- nearly six times greater -- and among current smokers -- more than four times greater -- than in those with migraine with aura, the authors said.
Roughly one in four households in the United States has at least one resident who experiences migraines, according to the Migraine Research Foundation. Women are three times as likely to experience migraines as men, the foundation estimates.
Migraine with aura -- also called a classic migraine -- is a recurring headache that strikes after or at the same time as sensory disturbances like flashes of light, blind spots and other vision changes or tingling in your hand or face, according to the research foundation.
About one in three people with migraine experience aura, according to researchers on the JAMA study.
"The clinical importance of these findings, and whether they generalize beyond this study population, require further research," they wrote.