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Migraines & Headaches Health Center

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Stroke Risk Linked to Some Migraines

Migraines With Visual Aura May Be More Common in Young Women Who Have Strokes
WebMD Health News

Aug. 9, 2007 -- Some migraines may increase young women's odds of having a stroke, according to a new study.

The study -- published online today in the journal Stroke -- comes from experts including Leah MacClellan, MSPH, and Steven Kittner, MD, of the University of Maryland School of Medicine in Baltimore.

MacClellan, Kittner, and colleagues studied 1,000 African-American and white women age 15-49 living in and around the Baltimore-Washington, D.C. area.

The women were in their mid- to late-30s, on average (age range: 15-49). Stroke, which is America's third leading cause of death and a major cause of disability, usually strikes decades later.

The researchers asked the women about their history of headaches, including migraines.

Compared to the women who hadn't had a stroke, the stroke survivors were 50% more likely to report having a history of migraines with visual aura in the year or years before their stroke.

Symptoms of migraine with visual aura included ever seeing spots, lines, or flashing lights during a migraine.

Migraines without visual aura weren't linked to increased stroke risk.

Reducing Stroke Risk

Among the women who reported a history of migraine with visual aura, those who smoked and took oral contraceptives were seven times more likely to have had a stroke.

"Young women with probable migraine with visual symptoms can reduce their risk of stroke by stopping smoking and finding alternatives to the use of estrogen-containing contraceptives," Kittner states in an American Heart Association news release.

He uses the term "probable migraine" because the women's migraines weren't necessarily diagnosed by a doctor.

The researchers took many stroke risk factors into consideration. But they didn't have data on factors including the women's cholesterol levels, alcohol use, physical activity, and medications.

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