Migraine with Aura Linked To Cardiovascular Disease in Women

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

Over the last few years, there has been a great deal of discussion regarding Migraine disease and increased risk of stroke. There had not been, however, sufficient study of Migraine and cardiovascular disease (CVD) to either acknowledge or dismiss any connection between Migraine and CVD. Now, thanks to the Women's Health Study, which was conducted by the National Institutes of Health and followed various aspects of the participants' health for 10 years, there is new information surfacing.

Study design, setting, and participants

Tobias Kurth, M.D., Sc.D., of Brigham and Women's Hospital and the Harvard School of Public Health, Boston, and his colleagues evaluated the association of Migraine with or without aura and subsequent risk of overall and specific CVD. The study included 27,840 women, 45 years of age or older, who were participating in the Women's Health Study, were free of CVD and angina when they entered the study in 1992-1995, and who had information on self-reported Migraine with aura and lipid test results. Their study report was based on follow-up data through March of 2004.

Study results

  • Of the 3,610 with active Migraine (Migraine attacks in the prior year), 1,434 (39.7%) reported aura symptoms.
  • During a mean of 10 years of follow-up, 580 major CVD events occurred.
  • When compared with women with no Migraine history, the women who reported active Migraine with aura were...
    • 2.15 times as likely to experience major CVD events;
    • 1.91 times as likely to experience ischemic stroke;
    • 2.08 times as likely to experience myocardial infarction (heart attack);
    • 1.74 times as likely to experience coronary revascularization;
    • 1.71 times as likely to experience angina; and
    • 2.33 times as likely to die of ischemic CVD.
  • After adjusting for age, there were 18 additional major CVD events attributable to Migraine with aura per 10,000 women per year.
  • Women who reported active Migraine without aura did not have increased risk of any vascular events or angina.

Study conclusions

Kurth and his colleagues concluded,

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