The link between migraine and incidents of cardiovascular disease and related mortality in women was recently assessed in a study titled “Migraine and risk of cardiovascular disease in women: prospective cohort study,” published in the journal BMJ.
Migraine, characterized by recurrent mild to severe headaches, affects around 20 percent of the overall U.S. population, with most patients being women. A number of studies showed the close association between migraine and cardiovascular diseases. However, the mechanisms by which migraine causes cardiovascular disease are still not identified.
“Potential mechanisms for an association between migraine and stroke include endovascular dysfunction, increased thrombogenic susceptibility, increased prevalence of vascular risk factors, shared genetic markers, cortical spreading depolarization, and inflammation,” the authors wrote in their study.
The research team examined the relationship between migraine and cardiovascular events. Also, they looked at the specific mortality rates due to cardiovascular disease related-migraine in data from the Nurses’ Health Study II.
A total of 115,541 women, ages 25-42, participated in the study at baseline and were free of angina and cardiovascular disease. The women underwent progressive follow-up from 1989 to 2011. During the study period, several parameters were assessed, including major cardiovascular disease, myocardial infarction, stroke, angina/coronary revascularization procedures, and cardiovascular-related mortality.
The results revealed that 15.2 percent of the participants (17,531 women) reported being diagnosed with migraine by a physician. After two decades of follow-up, major cardiovascular disease events occurred in 1,329 participants, with 223 recorded deaths.
After adjusting the data, researchers found that women with migraine have a hazard ratio of 1.50 for the risk of developing major cardiovascular diseases, compared to control individuals without migraine. The recorded hazard ratios for the other diseases — myocardial infarction, stroke, and angina/coronary revascularization procedures — were 1.39, 1.62, and 1.73, respectively.
In terms of mortality, women with migraine were found to have a 1.37 ratio risk of mortality related to cardiovascular disease, in comparison to those without migraine. No significant differences were recorded within each subgroup, including age, smoking status, hypertension, postmenopausal hormone therapy, and oral contraception.
“Results of this large, prospective cohort study among women support the hypothesis that migraine is a marker for increased risk of any cardiovascular events, including cardiovascular mortality. Given the high prevalence of migraine in the general population, an urgent need exists to understand the biological processes involved and to provide preventive solutions for patients,” the authors concluded.