Migraines – affecting around 1 in 7 people in the UK – are excruciating to those who suffer with them. And now this complex neurological condition has been linked to an increased risk of heart problems in a new study.
The research suggests women who suffer from migraines could be more likely to suffer from cardiovascular disease. The team of scientists found female migraine sufferers were at greater risk of having a heart attack and chest pain (angina). They were also more likely to need to undergo heart-related procedures, such as coronary artery bypass grafting.
The study also discovered that migraines in women weren't just associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease, and that the women were also more likely to die from heart-related problems compared to those who don't suffer from migraines. The research followed more than 115,000 women aged between 25 and 42 for more than ten years. Migraine sufferers were a whopping 50% more likely to die during that period.
Previous research has shown migraines raise the risk of stroke, but this is the first study to show that these intense headaches may increase the risk of cardiovascular disease. Lead author Dr Tobias Kirth of the Institute of Public Health, Berlin says:
"These results further add to the evidence that migraine should be considered an important risk marker for cardiovascular disease, at least in women, and there is no reason why the findings can't be applicable to men"
He added that future research (e.g. the use of statin or vitamin D in reducing the burden of migraines and cardiovascular disease) is needed.
Rebecca Burch from the Harvard Medical School – in an accompanying editorial – said that the risk is small at the level of individual patient, but still important. She added that the study should prompt more research in to whether migraines should be treated with aspirin or statins.
Maureen Talbot, Senior Cardiac Nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), says that, while the research needs further study, any migraine sufferers who are concerned about the findings should discuss this further with their GP who can determine if a heart health check is required.
The research was published in the British Medical Journal.