One form of headache is a migraine, characterised by severe pain and throbbing.
Symptoms associated with migraine can be debilitating and include nausea and vomiting, sensitivity to light and sounds, affected vision, and numbness of the face and extremities. Women are more likely to
suffer from migraine than men.
Migraine has been linked with the vascular (circulatory) system and increased risk of stroke, however the mechanisms underpinning this relationship are unclear. It’s also thought that migraine may be a sign of increased risk of heart disease in some people but there is limited evidence to confirm this. Heart disease is a major cause of death in Australia so it’s important to understand all possible risk factors for
the disease in order to encourage early diagnosis and treatment.
Researchers looked at the association between migraine and heart disease in a large group of women. The women reported whether they had been diagnosed with migraine at the beginning of the study and at further points later in time. They also reported incidence of heart disease, which was confirmed through medical records. The primary outcome assessed was major heart disease defined by a combined
endpoint of heart attack, stroke or fatal heart disease.
The results showed an association between migraine and heart disease in this group of women. The association was strongest for stroke and angina (chest pain caused by insufficient blood flow and oxygen to a portion of the heart muscle).
This research adds weight to the view that migraine is linked to the circulatory system. The study only involved women so further research is required to find out whether this association is found in men as well. Migraine may be a marker of heart disease and assist in hastening the diagnosis and treatment of
heart disease therefore hopefully reducing poor outcomes. It’s important to note that this research is observational so a causal link can’t be confirmed and it is certainly not suggesting that everyone with migraine has heart disease. So don’t panic if you suffer from migraine – talk to your doctor if you have any concerns.
Kurth, T et al. Migraine and risk of
cardiovascular disease in women: prospective cohort
study. BMJ 2016; 353: i2610 http://dx.doi.org/10.1136/