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Migraine With Aura Ups Heart Risk

Genetic Predisposition May Explain Link
WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Louise Chang, MD

July 18, 2006 -- Older women who have migraines with visual disturbance -- known as aura -- have an increased risk of dying from heart attack and stroke, although women who suffer from other types of migraines do not, new research shows.

Women aged 45 and older who had the "aura" type of migraine also had a higher overall risk of cardiovascular disease (which includes heart disease and stroke).

It is not clear if these risks extended to younger women or to men, because they were not included in the study.

The findings can be considered good news for most women who suffer from migraines, the researchers conclude.

"Since migraine without aura is far more common than migraine with aura, our data demonstrate no increased risk of cardiovascular disease for the majority of migraine patients," wrote Tobias Kurth, MD, and colleagues from Harvard Medical School's Brigham and Women's Hospital in Boston.

Migraines are more common in women than men. Three times as many women complained of having them in one study (18% versus 6%).

But typically only about a third to a fifth of migraine sufferers of either sex have aura symptoms.

An aura occurs before the onset of a migraine. Aura symptoms can include, but are not limited to, light flashes, blind spots, blurred vision, and the formation of dazzling zigzag lines during the migraine. Aura can also include changes in sensation and smell.

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