The results of a study presented at 2006 Scientific Sessions of the American Heart Association has led to the discovery that menwith a history of migraine headache had a 24% increase in risk for major cardiovascular disease (CVD), primarily due to a 42% increase in the risk for myocardial infarction (MI, or “Heart Attack”). This finding parallels results reported earlier this year by the same team of investigators who found that women with a history of migraine with aura, or migraine with visual or neurologic disturbances occurring within 30 minutes prior to the onset of a migraine headache, were at a higher risk for MI or other cardiovascular conditions than women without migraine. Surprisingly, women who reported migraine without aura were not at an increased risk for CVD.

The study presented this week involved participants in the Physicians’ Health Study who were free of outcome events at the start of follow-up. The men replied to yearly questionnaires and were asked about migraines, risk factors, and whether or not any study end point (MI or “heart attack”, stroke, or other CVD) had occurred.

Over the 15.7 year follow-up period a total of 2,236 major cardiovascular events occurred. After adjustment for a variety of factors, the authors found a significantly increased risk for the development of major cardiovascular disease among migraine sufferers than men without migraine, most notably an increased risk for MI. However, no significant increase in the risk for ischemic stroke, coronary revascularization, angina, or ischemic cardiovascular death was seen among those with migraine when compared with those without migraine.

The authors of the report were quick to note that their investigation made no attempt to identify what the commonalities between migraine and CVD might be, if any, and emphasized that much more research remains to be done in this area.


The study by Kurth and associates is yet another demonstration of how symptoms seemingly unrelated to heart and circulatory diseases (migraine headaches in both studies mentioned above) can actually serve as “red flag” symptoms regarding the presence of, or the potential for, a far more serious condition. The findings in both the women’s and the men’s studies will require considerable further study to determine the possible co-factors that may be at work in these disease conditions.

In summary, we now have evidence that identifies “classical migraine” or “migraine with aura” as an independent, long-term predictor of cardiovascular events in both men and women. Until more effective therapies for CVD are available, the best preventative methods are still 1) eat sensibly, 2) exercise regularly and 3) stop smoking now.



The information presented in this article and its included links is of an informational nature only and is not intended as a recommendation of any changes in the reader’s health care program. Before making any changes in diet, medications, or other treatments the reader is strongly advised to consult with their health care provider.

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