Can Migraines Cause Heart Attacks?
As if the pain of chronic migraine headaches isn’t enough – now you have to worry that if you suffer from them, you may also be at greater risk for having a heart attack or stroke!
Although not as serious a risk as high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or being overweight, a recent study at Harvard Medical School concluded that female migraine sufferers, particularly those who experience “auras” as part of their migraine symptoms, are more at risk for heart attacks and strokes. An aura usually occurs right before the onset of a migraine when a person may see light flashes or smell peculiar odors.
A similar study in men, conducted by the same research team at Harvard Medical School, found that male migraine sufferers were at a 42% greater risk for heart attacks and strokes than non-migraine sufferers. However, the aura association was not considered in the men’s research study.
An additional study, conducted in the Netherlands, found that migraine sufferers who had attacks preceded by an aura had a 43% greater chance of higher cholesterol levels and 76% greater risk for high blood pressure. These same individuals had a four times greater incidence of heart disease or stroke before they turned 45!
Why would migraine sufferers be at greater risk for heart disease? Although no one is really quite sure, the answer may very well lie in genetics. People prone to heart disease may also be prone to migraines; migraines typically just show up at an earlier age than heart disease. It also may be that migraine sufferers are at an increased risk for blood clots which are also linked to cardiovascular disease.
One thing is for sure, if you suffer from migraines, it would be prudent to lower any other risk factor for heart disease that you may have. For example, if you smoke cigarettes, stop. If your cholesterol or blood pressure is high, take the necessary dietary steps to lower them. Same goes for obesity.
Let your migraines trigger positive action steps on your part to stay on top of the coronary risk factors that you can control!