The agony of a migraine headache is debilitating on its own, but can it also be the sign of something more dangerous?
Recent studies have found that the risk of heart disease and stroke are increased in women who suffer from migraines. While the connection between migraine and stroke may seem more logical, as they both affect the brain, there are studies now that suggest the risk of ischemic heart disease is doubled in women who suffer from migraines.
Ischemia occurs when blood flow is restricted, resulting in oxygen deprivation to a part of the body. In the case of ischemic heart disease, narrowed arteries reduce blood flow to the heart muscle, which can ultimately lead to a heart attack. The same process can happen in the brain, which can lead to stroke.
So how does this relate to migraines? Medicine is realizing a strong connection between the brain and the heart in terms of pathology. People with migraines are well known to have more frequently benign heart structural abnormalities, such as mitral valve prolapse. Migraine sufferers are at higher risk of stroke, and some may develop stroke-like symptoms during their migraines.
Women who suffer from migraines may have a higher risk of ischemic heart disease, but they can minimize their risk of heart attack in the same ways that the rest of the population can. Knowing that their risk may be doubled should be enough motivation to take the threat seriously. Tips for lowering the risk of heart disease include:
- Eating a healthy diet and drinking plenty of water
- Getting proper sleep, striving for eight hours a night
- Quitting smoking
- Monitoring blood pressure and cholesterol
- Discussing strategies with your physician to maintain the proper ranges for each
All of these suggestions are part of an overall strategy that should be discussed with your physician. Your physician can also advise you about medicines that may decrease your migraine auras and headaches, which in turn may also decrease your risk of stroke.