Migraine - Might B Vitamins Help Prevent Stroke?

  • While it’s true that Migraine can raise our risks of developing stroke, thankfully it's a rare occurrence.

    That said, a dear friend recently suffered a stroke, misdiagnosed as Migraine complicated by medication overuse headache. As a medical first responder I see people too often in emergency situations during a stroke. Loved ones have had transient ischemic attacks, and I suffer stroke like symptoms with my Migraines. So, stroke is on my mind more than most people I suspect.

    I feel that knowing I have a slightly raised chance for stroke, is less a reason to be frightened, and more an opportunity for me to change my lifestyle to try to minimize the chance that stroke will ever be a problem for me.

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    So, it was with some interest that I read a study in the American Academy of Neurology’s journal Neurology, indicating that B vitamins may affect stroke risk in some cases.

    The first thing to consider is that B vitamins are a complex of several vitamins. So which are the important ones we should be looking at? Knowing which vitamins were being studied is important if a patient is interested in utilizing the information for themselves to improve their diet or initiate a discussion with their doctor.

    In this case, this study was a meta-analysis of 14 randomized clinical trials with 54,913 participants. This means they took all these studies, put them together and looked at them as a whole. These types of studies can be helpful because there tends to be less chance of bias and more diversity with higher numbers of patients involved.

    Their research had some interesting findings:

    • B vitamin taken regularly seemed to lower the risk of stroke by 7%.
    • Folic acid (B9) seemed to reduce the effect of B vitamins. This is important because folic acid is added automatically in cereals and grain products.
    • Researchers didn’t find a reduction in the risk of stroke with B12.

    The researcher’s conclusions are food for thought for those concerned about their stroke risk, and will hopefully generate some helpful discussion between patients and their doctors. Study author Yuming stated:

    "Based on our results, the ability of vitamin B to reduce stroke risk may be influenced by a number of other factors such as the body’s absorption rate, the amount of folic acid or vitamin B12 concentration in the blood, and whether a person has kidney disease or high blood pressure. Before you begin taking any supplements, you should always talk to your doctor."2

    As Yuming noted, patients should always remember to check with their doctor before changing any of their medications, supplements or other treatments, and this includes something that seems so harmless as B vitamins.


    Those patients with frequent gastric problems such as gastric stasis, nausea and vomiting or diarrhea, may be deficient in B vitamins and a blood test may be necessary to confirm the need for additional supplements. Taking folic acid in particular may be dangerous, because it covers up the signs of B12 deficiency, and your doctor will need to know that. Because B12 deficiency can result in neurologic damage, it’s important to know your status and maintain it at a healthy level over 400.


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    Stay tuned later for more information on B vitamins and Migraine!





    1 Ji, Yan, MD; Tan, Song, MD; Yuming, Xu, MD; Chandra, Avinash, MD; Shi, Changhe, MD; Song, Bo, MD; Qin, Jie, MD; Gao, Yuan, MD. "Vitamin B supplementation, homocysteine levels, and the risk of cerebrovascular disease." Neurology. Published online before print. September 18, 2013.


    2 Press Release. "Can Vitamin B. Supplements Help Stave Off Stroke?" American Academy of Neurology. September 18, 2013.


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    © Ellen Schnakenberg, 2013.
    Last updated September 18, 2013.

Published On: September 19, 2013