Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Migraine and heart disease

Heart Beat

Migraine and heart disease

A connection between migraine and stroke has been suggested for some time. Now researchers are making a case that migraine with aura doubles the risk of having chest pain (angina), a heart attack, or dying of cardiovascular disease in women. Between 20% and 30% of migraine sufferers experience aura "" signs like seeing flashing lights or smelling nonexistent smells that foreshadow the onset of a migraine headache.

A doubling of risk seems like a lot, but it isn't as bad as it sounds. It means upping the ante from 2 major cardiovascular events per 1,000 women each year to about 4 per 1,000. Migraine without aura isn't linked with heart disease, according to the report in the July 19, 2006, Journal of the American Medical Association.

How migraine with aura might influence heart disease isn't known. Nor do we know if treating migraine diminishes the risk. "What we can say is that women "" and probably men "" who have migraine with aura may benefit from adopting a lifestyle that minimizes cardiovascular risk factors in order to offset the increase in heart disease risk posed by migraine," says study leader Dr. Tobias Kurth, a neuroepidemiologist at Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital.

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