Harvard Heart Letter

Heart Beat: Migraine, heart disease linked

Heart Beat

Migraine, heart disease linked

A migraine can cause excruciating head pain that pulses or throbs, nausea, and sensitivity to light and sound. Add heartache to the list, suggest researchers from Harvard-affiliated Brigham and Women's Hospital. Their 15-year study of more than 20,000 men showed that those who had migraines were more likely to have developed cardiovascular disease during the study period than men who didn't have migraines. These results, published in the April 23, 2007 Archives of Internal Medicine, support the investigators' earlier findings of a link between migraine and cardiovascular disease in women.

The increase in risk was biggest for heart attack, at 42%. That isn't as bad as it sounds. Migraine upped the ante from 3.6 heart attacks per year among 10,000 men who did not have migraine to 4.9 per year among 10,000 migraine sufferers. The chance of having any cardiovascular event "" nonfatal stroke or heart attack, or dying of cardiovascular disease "" also increased. Regular headaches were not linked to cardiovascular disease.

This study, and its predecessors, show an association between migraine and cardiovascular disease, not a cause-and-effect relationship. No one yet knows how the two might be linked. And there's no evidence that migraine is a trigger for heart attack or stroke (see page 1).

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