Women who experience migraine headaches at least once weekly may have a significantly increased risk of cardiovascular disease and ischemic stroke, according to research presented this week at the annual meeting of the American Academy of Neurology in Chicago.
Tobias Kurth, MD, of Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, and colleagues studied 27,798 U.S. female health professionals who participated in the Women’s Health Study, including 3,568 who reported active migraine at baseline (30.1% monthly, 5% weekly).
During a mean of 11.9 years of follow-up, the researchers identified 706 cardiovascular disease events, including 305 myocardial infarctions and 310 ischemic strokes. Compared to women without migraine, they found that the risk of cardiovascular disease was J-shaped in women with migraine frequencies of less than one per month, monthly, and weekly (hazard ratios 1.54, 0.97 and 1.90, respectively). They also found a similar pattern in the risk for myocardial infarction and ischemic stroke, but with a different emphasis. In women with migraine frequencies of less than one per month, they found hazard ratios of 1.64 for myocardial infarction and 1.45 for ischemic stroke compared to 1.49 and 2.74, respectively, for women with weekly migraine frequencies.
“Our data indicate that the association between migraine and cardiovascular disease varies by migraine frequency,” the authors write. “While a J-shaped association was apparent for all ischemic events, women with a migraine frequency of at least weekly had substantial increased risk of ischemic stroke.”