According to new research published in the June, 2009, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, women who have migraines with aura may be more likely to have a stroke or heart attack than women who don’t have the condition. An aura is a visual/sensory disturbance that occurs before the migraine starts, such as seeing bright lights. People who have migraines will know what this is.
The study found that women with this type of migraine, whose migraines occur at least once a week, are more than four times as likely to have a stroke as women who do not have migraines. Women with migraine and an aura who have migraines less than once a month were more than twice as likely to have a heart attack and nearly twice as likely to have had heart procedures such as coronary artery bypass surgery or angioplasty. In contrast, women who had migraines with aura once a month had no increased risk of stroke or heart problems. So the tie to stroke and heart attack seems to lie in the frequency of the migraine/aura.
The Women’s Health Study involved 27,798 U.S. women health professionals age 45 and older. The women had no heart or cerebrovascular problems at the start of the study and were followed for about 12 years. During that time, 706 women, or 2.5 percent of the group had cerebrovascular events, including 305 heart attacks and 310 strokes. In addition, 655 women had heart procedures such as bypass surgery.
Of the 3,568 women with migraine at the start of the study, 1,428 had migraine with aura.