Gene Linked To Migraine and Increased Stroke Risk

by Teri Robert, Lead Expert

It's a double-edged Migraine sword. Researchers have identified a gene that may lessen the risk of Migraine with aura (MWA), but for women who have MWA and carry the MTHFR 677TT genotype, the risk of ischemic stroke is substantially increased. This news comes from study findings reported in the July 30, 2008, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

This finding is based upon further analysis of data obtained in the Women's Health Study. In this study, 4,577 women had a history of Migraine. Of those women, 3.226 were actively experiencing Migraine and 39% of those had Migraine with aura (MWA). The women were also tested for a certain gene variant in the methyleneterahydrofolate reductase gene. Study participants were followed for a period of 12 years for the occurrence of cardiovascular disease, including heart attacks and ischemic stroke.

The study found that women who had both the gene variant and migraine with aura had more than three times the risk of cardiovascular disease, which was driven by four times the risk for stroke compared with women who did not have the gene variant and no history of migraine. An estimated 11 percent of the study population carries the gene variant.

These findings would logically Bring women to wonder about genetic testing, but the study authors say it's too early:

“This gene by itself does not appear to increase the risk for overall and for specific cardiovascular disease, but rather this research suggests a possible connection between the gene variant and migraine with aura. While it is too early to start testing young women with migraine with aura for this gene variant, more focused research will help us to understand these complex links and will help us to potentially develop preventative strategies... Doctors should try to reduce heart disease risk factors and advise young women who experience migraine with aura not to smoke and to consider birth control pill alternatives as these increase the risk of ischemic vascular problems.”

study author Tobias Kurth, MD, ScD
Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School, Boston

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