Women who suffer from migraines might be at risk for heart disease, research suggests. According to a study published in BMJ, female migraine sufferers are also very likely to have heart problems. The findings of this study may help more women to recognize their risk for cardiovascular disease and may hopefully spur the development of new medicines to combat the deadly disease.
The findings are the result of an exhaustive study involving 115 541 participants in the Nurses’ Health Study II; at the beginning of the study, all of the participants were between 25-42 years and free of cardiovascular disease or angina. Yet, a significant number of the women (17,531) reportedly suffered from migraine headaches.
Tobias Kurth of the Charité – Universitätsmedizin Berlin Institute of Public Health and his colleagues at Harvard University, and Washington University's School of Medicine followed the women from 1989 through June 2011. During that time an additional 6,389 women were diagnosed with migraine.
Kurth et al noted that migraine sufferers tended to exhibit the following:
- family history of heart attack
- body mass index (BMI) above 30
- high cholesterol
- high blood pressure
- use aspirin, acetaminophen, non-steroidal anti-inflammatory drugs (NSAIDs)
Women, Migraines and Heart Disease
A certain portion of the participants passed away as a result of heart disease. Kurth et al found that 1,329 myoccardial events occurred (678 heart attacks, 651 strokes, 203 angina/coronary revascularization procedures performed) of which 223 died.
Migraine sufferers were 50 % more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease than women who did not experience migraines.
That migraine could be seen as a potential heart disease marker is astounding. The team pointed to several studies that also found associations between heart disease and migraines in women.
For example, a Taiwanese study of 11,541 young women between 18 - 45 years of age, found a higher incidence of heart disease among patients newly diagnosed with migraine.
Kurth and his colleagues said there are not currently any mechanisms that can help explain the increased risk of cardiovascular disease deaths among women with migraine. They call for further investigation which would look at whether statins and vitamin D could lower the risk of heart disease.
This is logical. Statins are a class of drugs that are used to control cholesterol. High cholesterol is a culprit in heart disease. Vitamin D is also believed to play a role in controlling fat accumulation.
Interestingly, though, research has also shown a relationship between statin use and increased diabetes risk.
Considering that type 2 diabetes is also a risk factor for heart disease, it is my opinion that future studies should also take this into account. Future research must look for relationships between migraine and type 2 diabetes. If such a relationship exists and if those diabetic patients had been taking statins prior to developing diabetes, that would have implications in and of itself.
Due to the prevalence of migraine in the general population, Kurth and his colleagues recognize need to understand the biological processes involved and to "provide preventative solutions to patients."
Hopefully that will happen.
God never grows weary in caring for His children. May God grant us strength to endure hardship and glorify His holy name.
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Kurth T, Winter AC, Eliassen AH, Dushkes R, Mukamal KJ, Rimm EB, Willett WC, Manson JE, & Rexrode KM (2016). Migraine and risk of cardiovascular disease in women: prospective cohort study. BMJ (Clinical research ed.), 353 PMID: 27247281
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