Heart Beat: Migraine and stroke

Heart Beat

Migraine and stroke

In her classic essay, "In Bed," novelist Joan Didion calls migraine a "headache of blinding severity ... a circuit breaker." One circuit that migraines might disrupt is blood flow to the brain.

Over the years, a number of studies have looked at the link between migraine and ischemic stroke, the kind caused by a blood clot that blocks blood flow to the brain. An analysis of 14 of these, published in the January 8, 2005, British Journal of Medicine, calculates that migraine sufferers are twice as likely to have a stroke as nonsufferers. This isn't as bad as it sounds, upping the ante from 2.5 strokes per 1,000 people each year to 5.0 per 1,000.

You can't change whether you have migraines. This study suggests that if you do, paying more attention to other stroke risk factors that you can modify, such as high blood pressure and exercise, might pay off in the long run.

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