Stroke Risk Linked to Some Migraines

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

Medically Reviewed by Brunilda Nazario, MD on August 09, 2007
From the WebMD Archives

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.

Show Sources

SOURCES: MacClellan, L. Stroke, Aug. 9, 2007; online edition. News release, American Heart Association.

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