What is a migraine? Why migraine happens. Who gets migraines? Treating migraines.

It's Not Just The Headache

If you thought migraines were all about migraine headaches, you've got another think coming. It's not just the symptoms of the migraine that are the problem, but the many health problems that have been linked to the condition. We've known for awhile that migraines have been linked to higher risks for stroke, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes. Now, researchers at the Albert Einstein College of Medicine of Yeshiva University say that migraine sufferers should be tested for heart disease.

Not A Threat

The findings of this study have been published in Neurology. The lead author of the study, Dr. Richard Lipton states, "Migraine has been viewed as a painful condition that affects quality of life, but not as a threat to people's overall health. Our study suggests that migraine is not an isolated disorder and that, when caring for people with migraine, we should also be attentive to detecting and treating their cardiovascular risk factors."

In the UK alone, migraines affect one in every four women, and one in every 12 men. In this study, researchers looked at data gathered on 6,102 migraine sufferers and 5,243 health control subjects. The results of this analysis showed that migraine sufferers have twice the risk for heart attack (4.1%) when compared to those without migraines (1.9%). The scientists think that there is a shared factor between migraine and heart disease in which the lining of the blood vessels is damaged.

Small Percentage

The risk for heart attack was highest in those migraine sufferers who experienced migraines with aura or symptoms that presage a migraine and may affect vision, hearing, smell, or touch. The data also found that those with migraines were 50% more likely to develop diabetes, elevated cholesterol, and hypertension, all of which are contributory factors for heart disease. But Dr. Lipton says that migraine sufferers shouldn't panic on reading about these findings. He says that while the data suggests a higher risk for cardiovascular issues, the actual percentage of migraine sufferers afflicted with these conditions is still small.

Senior Cardiac Nurse June Davison, of the British Heart Foundation said, "This study shows that there is a link between migraines and cardiovascular events and risk factors for cardiovascular disease. It has previously been suggested that only people who had migraines accompanied with aura were at increased risk, but this research found there is also increased risk with migraine without aura."