Migraine and Stroke Risk

What Did the Studies Show?

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

Those of you who have followed my work are bound to have seen me warn that Migraine disease, especially with prolonged Migraine attacks, increases our risk of stroke. MAGNUM, the National Migraine Association, has taken this position for several years as well. Our position was based on studies that were quite legitimate, but not very well known, as well as unfortunate anecdotal evidence from Migraineurs who had experienced Migrainous strokes and turned to us for education and support.

An interesting paper has been published that pulls together data from 14 studies, correlating and analyzing the data to offer a more conclusive overall picture. "Risk of ischaemic stroke in people with migraine: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies" uses data from studies conducted between 1966 and June of 2004, that examined the association between migraine and risk of ischemic stroke.

The results of their analysis:

  • The averaged risk of stroke for all Migraineurs was 2.16 times that of people without Migraine.
  • Migraineurs who experience Migraine with aura had 2.27 times the risk factor of that of non-Migraineurs.
  • Migraineurs who experience Migraine without aura had 1.83 times the risk factor of that of non-Migraineurs.
  • Adding oral contraceptives resulted in increasing the risk of stroke by approximately eight times.

What do the results mean?
The mainstream press got some great headlines out of this:

  • "Double" trouble for Migraine Sufferers and Stroke risk
  • Stroke risk doubles for migraine sufferers
  • Migraines linked to doubling of stroke risk
  • Migraine Sufferers Are More Susceptible to Strokes; Oral Contraceptives Worsen the Condition

Etminan et al say the results "strongly suggest that Migraine may be an independent risk factor for stroke."1 Their review and interpretation of the 14 studies gives an interpretation to the data that warrants indicates a need for future study into the link between Migraine disease and stroke, the mechanism of Migraine-related stroke, and the increased risk presented by oral contraceptives.

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