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Migraine With Aura Raises Cardiovascular Disease Risk in Women


This condition is a more important risk factor than previously thought and should not be taken lightly.

Migraine with aura is one of the strongest relative contributors to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD) events, according to new study data. The complete data will be presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 65th Annual Meeting, to be held March 16-23, 2013, in San Diego.

Although migraine with aura previously was linked with an increased risk of CVD, its relative contribution to future CVD events is unclear, the investigators noted. They found that migraine with aura is a more important risk factor than previously thought-a stronger relative contributor than diabetes mellitus (DM), current cigarette smoking, obesity, and a family history of early heart disease-and therefore should not be taken lightly when vascular risk profiles are evaluated.

Included in this prospective cohort study were close to 28,000 women aged 45 years and older who were participating in the Women’s Health Study and did not have CVD at baseline. They provided self-reported information on migraine and lipid measurements. The researchers assessed baseline information on migraine and other risk factors and then monitored the women for the development of CVD for 15 years. They used medical records validation to confirm major CVD events, such as nonfatal myocardial infarction (MI), nonfatal stroke, and CVD death.

At baseline, about 5000 women reported migraine; 40% of them reported migraine with aura. About 1000 major CVD events were confirmed during the 15 years of follow-up.

Having systolic blood pressure of 180 mm Hg or greater was the biggest contributor to CVD risk. Migraine with aura was the second strongest single contributor. Lesser contributors were DM, a family history of premature MI, and a body mass index of 35 kg/m2 or higher.

The findings suggest that patients who have migraine with aura and the physicians who treat them should know that they could be at higher risk for CVD, and they should focus more on the modifiable risk factors, such as hypertension and cigarette smoking, it was noted.

Studying whether treatment of patients with migraine, especilly those who have migraine with aura, could reduce the risk of heart attack, stroke, and other poor vascular outcomes in women was recommended. Studying this level of association in a group of younger women also was suggested.

The study, Migraine With Aura Is a Strong Contributing Risk Factor for Cardiovascular Disease, was published in the March 7, 2013, issue of Neurology Today. It was funded with grants from the NIH.

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