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Migraines With Aura May Raise Stroke Risk

Study Shows Increased Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke for Migraines With Aura

Migraines and Stroke Risk: The New Studies continued...

Kurth evaluated the information the women had provided about their history of migraine and followed them to see when hemorrhagic stroke might have occurred. Hemorrhagic strokes involve a ruptured blood vessel, while ischemic strokes, linked in other research with migraines, are due to a clot within the blood vessel.

In his 2005 study of the same study participants, Kurth tells WebMD, ''We looked at hemorrhagic stroke and didn't find a significant association [with migraine with aura]. Now, with longer follow-up, we see the significant association."

In his study, women with active migraine with aura -- but not migraine without aura -- had more than a twofold increased risk of hemorrhagic stroke compared with those with no migraine history. To put it in perspective, he says: 'We are talking four additional events for 10,000 women with migraine with aura per year."

What is it about the aura? It's not clear, Kurth says. ''There are probably several mechanisms, including genetic susceptibility, plus potential involvement of the arteries throughout the body plus involvement of other cardiovascular risk factors."

Gudmundsson reports getting a travel grant from the Pharmaceutical Society of Iceland Science Fund, while his co-authors report serving on boards for pharmaceutical companies and receiving travel grants from the American Headache Society. Kurth has received research funds from Merck and the Migraine Research Foundation and honoraria from other drug companies for educational lectures.

Second Opinion

The new research ''confirms a suspicion that many of us have had for many years, that migraine with aura is a significant risk factor for stroke," says Patrick Lyden, MD, chair of the department of neurology and the Carmen and Louis Warschaw Chair in Neurology, Cedars-Sinai Medical Center, Los Angeles, who reviewed the research for WebMD.

The Kurth research, he says, suggests the stroke risk may extend to the hemorrhagic type.

He, too, puts the new research findings in perspective. "This does not mean if you have a migraine you should run into the ER for a heart attack workup or a stroke workup," Lyden tells WebMD.

It does mean those with migraine should be aware of the potential increased risk, he says. "If you have migraine, you need to talk to your doctor and control your [other] risk factors [for stroke]," Lyden says. That includes controlling high cholesterol and high blood pressure.

Lyden suggests asking your doctor to review your medications for migraine, to be sure they are the best for you.

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