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Migraine May Be Linked to Heart Disease

People with migraine may be at an increased risk of heart attack and other risk factors for heart disease, according to a study published in the February 10, 2010, online issue of Neurology®, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

“While the overall risk of heart problems in people with migraine is small, these findings are consistent with other studies showing people with migraine are more likely to suffer from diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol, which are risk factors for heart disease,” said study author Marcelo E. Bigal, MD, PhD, with Merck Research Laboratories and the Albert Einstein College of Medicine in Bronx, New York. Bigal is also a member of the American Academy of Neurology.

The study involved 6,102 people with migraine and 5,243 people without migraine. Participants answered questions about headaches, treatment, general health and any diagnosed heart problems.

The study found that people who had migraines were about twice as likely to have a heart attack compared to people without migraines, or 4.1 percent of people with migraine compared to 1.9 percent of those without migraine. The risk was nearly three times greater for people who experienced migraine with aura, or sensations such as seeing flashing lights that come before the migraine headache, compared to people without migraines.

“Our results provide another reason for people with migraine to reduce other risk factors for heart disease, such as high blood pressure and obesity,” Bigal said.

The study also found that people with migraine with aura were one and half times more likely to have diabetes and high cholesterol compared to people without migraine.

The study was supported by the National Headache Foundation through a grant from Ortho-McNeil Neurologics and Merck & Co., Inc.

The American Academy of Neurology, an association of more than 22,000 neurologists and neuroscience professionals, is dedicated to promoting the highest quality patient-centered neurologic care. A neurologist is a doctor with specialized training in diagnosing, treating and managing disorders of the brain and nervous system such as Parkinson’s disease, ALS (Lou Gehrig’s disease), dementia, West Nile virus, and ataxia.

For more information about the American Academy of Neurology, visit

Rachel L. Seroka | American Academy of Neurology
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