2nd June 2016
New research on link with cardiovascular disease
Study identifies a link between migraine and cardiovascular disease
This week there has been press coverage following the results of a large study of women that identified a link between migraine and cardiovascular disease. Some news headlines were particularly alarming and The Migraine Trust has received enquiries from concerned migraine sufferers.
A large ongoing study in America called the Nurses’ Health Study is investigating the risk factors for major chronic disease in women. The Nurses’ Health Study II began in 1989 involving over 100,000 women who were aged 25 to 42. The women were questioned about their health and lifestyle every two years until 2011.
A team of researchers led by Professor Tobias Kurth examined data from the Nurses’ Health Study II (NHS II) to evaluate the association between migraine and incident cardiovascular disease and cardiovascular mortality in women. From the 17,531 (15.2%) women in the NHS II study who reported a diagnosis of migraine, they found a consistent link between migraine and cardiovascular disease. They concluded that women with migraine have a slightly increased risk of developing cardiovascular diseases, such as heart attack and stroke, than women who do not have migraine.
These findings, published in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on 31 May 2016, add to our previous knowledge of migraine. A number of studies have already identified that there is a small risk of stroke in younger women with migraine, especially migraine with aura. Read our information on stroke and migraine >
We asked Professor Peter Goadsby, a Trustee of The Migraine Trust and leading expert on migraine, about the research:
"This new work highlights the importance of correct diagnosis for patients with migraine. It shows a risk of heart attack and stroke in migraine patients that is small, increasing by about 1 person for every 2000 migraine patients. The new findings demand we do better in research to understand why this happens and how it can be prevented." Professor Peter Goadsby
Reducing risk of cardiovascular disease
Whether a person has migraine or not, the general advice to reduce a person’s risk of cardiovascular disease is to eat a healthy diet, take regular exercise, maintain a healthy weight and to stop smoking.
If you have concerns about your health, including diagnosis and management of migraine, your risk of cardiovascular disease or questions about medication, you should consult your doctor.
- The NHS Choices ‘Behind the Headlines’ team has critically reviewed the science behind the news reports to help you understand the facts – see “Migraines linked to increased heart disease risk in women” >
- Access “Migraine and risk of cardiovascular disease in women: prospective cohort study”, published in the British Medical Journal 31 May 2016 >
- Read the British Medical Journal editorial “Migraine and vascular disease” >
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