Migraines Might Affect Stroke Risk

Silent stroke risk may be greater in older individuals with chronic migraines

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) People with a history of migraines may have to take steps to avoid another serious health problem, according to new research.

Researchers found that individuals who reported having migraines were twice as likely to have a silent stroke.

These researchers suggested that individuals with migraines may need to pay more attention to reducing their stroke risk through healthy lifestyle adjustments.

"Exercise regularly and eat a healthy diet to lower stroke risk."

Teshamae Monteith, MD, of the Department of Neurology in the University of Miami School of Medicine, led this study.

According to Dr. Monteith and colleagues, previous limited studies have shown that migraines with auras may be risk factors for strokes.

An aura that occurs before a migraine usually consists of a vision of light or color, a smell or confusing thoughts. For some people who experience chronic migraines, auras are a warning sign that they are about to have a migraine.

This study involved 546 participants from Manhattan, New York.

The participants were an average of 71 years old, and 65 percent were Hispanic.

The researchers asked the participants about their medical history, including details about any migraines. They also noted if the participants had any heart health risk factors.

These researchers followed up with the patients about six years later with an MRI of the participants' brains.

Of the 546 participants, 19 percent reported having a history of migraines, 6 percent with an aura and 13 percent without.

The researchers found that over the course of the study, 56 participants experienced a silent stroke, or a stroke that does not produce any outward symptoms but still damages brain tissue.

Through statistical analysis, these researchers determined that individuals who had migraines had double the risk of having a silent stroke.

The authors of the study noted that this association was stronger among participants who experienced migraines without auras.

The researchers concluded that the risk of stroke among individuals with migraines is still small. However, the presence of migraines may be cause for lifestyle changes to reduce stroke risk, like exercise and a healthy diet.

This study was published on May 15 in Stroke.

The research was funded by the National Institutes of Health, the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke, and the American Heart Association. The researchers disclosed no conflicts of interest.

Review Date: 
May 15, 2014
Last Updated:
May 16, 2014