Women who have migraines during pregnancy have a greater risk of stroke or heart disease than pregnant women who don’t. Using pregnancy discharge data from nearly 17 million women in the US, researchers found that almost 34,000 women had been treated for migraines. These women were 19 times
more likely to suffer a stroke, five times more likely to have a heart
attack and more than twice as likely to have heart disease, blood clots
and other vascular problems.
The study uncovered a possible link, not proof that having migraines directly causes stroke or heart disease. As with nearly every study on migraine and other headache disorders, it establishes that people with one disorder are more likely than the general population to have another (often referred to as comorbidity), not cause and effect. It’s just enough to open up further research on the subject.
Articles on this study recommend prevention over treating migraines as they occur. Headache specialist Richard Lipton makes a point that everyone with headache should consider.
“People with migraine should view migraine the same way they would view diabetes or high cholesterol, as a medical problem that should be managed to make life better today and prevent complications tomorrow. Rather than being alarmed, people with migraine should get the migraines treated and make sure they modify risk factors for heart disease and stroke by maintaining a normal body weight and treating high blood pressure.”
The slew of not-so-good news of late is tempered by good news about migraine and memory. It is also a reminder to pay attention to your health as a whole, not just your headaches or migraines. I’m getting better at this, particularly in my diet, but it’s impossible to avoid all the risk factors for any illness. I figure that everything I do or encounter can possibly kill me, so I do the best I can without freaking out.
photo by Guillermo Barrios del Valle