For all medical experts think they know about migraine headaches, it seems like there is still much left to learn. Prior research had indicated that migraine headaches accompanied with an aura could mean that a stroke was looming. Unfortunately, none of these clinical studies had been able to verify this association– until now…
A new migraine clinical study has found that a history of migraine headaches can double the odds that an older person may suffer an ischemic brain infarction (often called a silent brain injury or stroke).
The Risk of Ischemic Silent Brain Infarction
The research team studied 546 diverse participants who had been enrolled in the Northern Manhattan Study in New York City, a collaborative effort between Columbia University and University of Miami. Of the participants:
- All were adults
- Average age of participants was 71
- 104 out of 546 had a history of migraines
After running a comparison of their MRI results, the research team discovered that recurring migraines doubled a participant’s risk for ischemic silent brain infarction.
A stroke occurs when a blood clot interrupts the flow of blood to the brain. This silent one often produces no symptoms, but it makes you much more likely to suffer further damage and strokes in the future. The risk for this type of stroke remains significantly high for repeat migraine sufferers even after accounting for the prevalence of high blood pressure (hypertension).
(This clinical study was funded by a grant from the National Institute of Neurological Disorders and Stroke.)
Interpreting the Results of this Study
The lead author of the study, Dr. Teshamae Monteith, warns people who experience migraines not to become too alarmed by these results. The inherent risk for stroke is still quite small.
“I do not believe migraine sufferers should worry, as the risk of ischemic stroke in people with migraine is considered small,” explained Dr. Monteith. “However, those with migraine and vascular risk factors may want to pay even greater attention to lifestyle changes that can reduce stroke risk, such as exercising and eating a low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.”
Our own migraine clinical trials have shown that there are certain complications that repeat migraine sufferers should be aware of. Prior research has shown how younger patients tend to also be more at risk for stroke. The best piece of advice we can give you at the moment is to be upfront and honest when you discuss your headaches with your doctor.
“We still don’t know if treatment for migraines will have an impact on stroke risk reduction,” said Dr. Monteith. “It may be a good idea to seek treatment from a migraine specialist if your headaches are out of control.”