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Heart risks women with migraine with aura should know about

Kathleen Blanchard's picture
Women with migraine and aura could be at higher risk for blood clots.

Results of a new study highlight two things women with migraine headache with aura should know. New research suggests women who suffer from the headaches might be at higher risk for blood clot that can lead to heart attack or stroke.

According to two studies presented at the American Academy of Neurology’s 65th Annual Meeting in San Diego, March 16 to 23, 2013, migraine headache is a risk factor for vascular events. For women who have aura, the risk is higher.

There might also be a risk of stroke or heart risk for women who take birth control and have migraines.

In a study of participants taking part in The Women’s Health Study that involved 27,860 women, 1,435 had migraine with aura.

Over a period of 15-years, 1,030 women had heart attack, stroke or death from heart related causes.

When researchers looked at risk factors for heart attack and stroke, they found high blood pressure topped the list. But the second contributor was migraines accompanied by aura, surpassing diabetes, smoking, obesity, and family history of early heart disease.

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What women should do

Tobias Kurth, MD, ScD authored the study and explains women the results don’t mean all women with migraines and auras are destined for heart attack or stroke, but it does mean it’s important to reduce risk factors.

He recommends regular exercise, keeping blood pressure under control, avoiding tobacco and maintaining a healthy weight.

A second study found women with migraine accompanied by aura who took all types of hormones for birth control could have increased chance of stroke from blood clot that can travel when deep vein thrombosis (clot) develops in the legs (DVT).

The study authors say the finding was compared to women without migraines and aura who were not found to be at higher risk. According to the analysis, 7.6 percent of women with migraine with aura who used a newer generation combined form of hormonal birth control had deep vein thrombosis; 6.3 percent of women with migraine without aura experienced a blood clot.

Study author Shivang Joshi, MD, MPH, RPh, of Brigham and Women's Falkner Hospital in Boston and a member of the American Academy of Neurology says it’s important for women with migraine headache to tell their doctors if they are using hormones for birth control that can put them at higher risk for heart attack and stroke. Your doctor will discuss safer options.

January 15, 2013

Image credit: Morguefile