Migraine with aura may increase the risk of heart attack and stroke in women
Women whose migraine headaches are accompanied by flashes of light or other changes in vision, called aura, may be at increased risk for a heart attack, a new study suggests.
A study showed that for women who said they experienced migraines with aura, the rate of heart attack and stroke was higher than the rate of these cardiac events in the overall study population. In fact, the study indicated that after high blood pressure, migraine with aura was the second strongest contributor to the risk of heart attack and stroke — ahead of Type 2 diabetes, smoking and obesity.
Migraines with aura occur when a blood vessels in the brain constrict, reducing blood flow to a certain area, said Dr. Ezriel R. Kornel, a neurosurgeon at Northern Westchester Hospital in Mount Kisco, NY. When the blood vessels subsequently dilate, or enlarge to increase blood flow, this leads to pain, Kornel said.
It's not clear why there was a link between having migraines with aura and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke. It's possible that common factors may be involved in both migraines and cardiovascular.
"It's certainly possible that the same factor that's causing the initial constriction in migraines with aura is causing the constriction of blood vessels in the heart," which leads to a heart attack, said Kornel, who was not involved in the study.
Kornel said there's still a lot to explore with this topic, including future studies that take into account whether women are taking migraine medication — a factor that could influence the link.
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