New research finds that women who suffer from migraine headaches have a 50% increased risk of heart attack, stroke or open heart surgery compared to women who do not have migraines. Specifically, the risk of heart attack is 39% higher, stroke is 62% higher, and heart surgery is 73% higher. These associations remained even after other risk factors such as age, high blood pressure, and smoking status, were accounted for.
More than 16,000 women participated in the study. The women were free of heart disease at the start of the study but 15% had migraines. The researchers analyzed data from the women over a 20 year follow-up period.
While this study only included women, the study would need to be duplicated to see if men may be affected similarly. However, study authors encourage those who have migraine headaches to have their doctor evaluate cardiovascular risk. There are other ways to lower risk of heart disease such as a healthy diet, daily exercise, and managing blood pressure.
Source: Kurth T, Winter A, Eliassen A, et al. Migraine and risk of cardiovascular disease in women: prospective cohort study. BMJ, 2016; 353:i2610.