Women, Migraines and Heart Disease–Oh My!

New study links migraine with aura to increased risk for heart attack

A new study of nearly 28,000 women shows that those who experience migraines with aura – visual disturbances such as flashing lights – are at a slightly higher risk of having heart disease.

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It doesn’t mean
every woman with migraines will have
heart disease.

Decoding the findings

“When the researchers looked at heart disease risk factors, they found it was as important a risk factor as high cholesterol, diabetes and high blood pressure,” says Cleveland Clinic cardiologist David Frid, MD.

Though it doesn’t mean every woman with migraines will have heart disease, it does mean those women should pay closer attention to their heart health. Frid says it’s important to identify as many risk factors as possible when assessing risk for heart disease, including high blood pressure and diabetes.

Chair of Cleveland Clinic’s Department of Cardiovascular Medicine, Steven Nissen, MD, believes the relationship between migraine headaches and coronary artery disease is not well defined.

“Patients with migraine can have unexpected dilation or constriction of blood vessels in the brain and some people think this may occur in the heart as well,” Dr. Nissen says.

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What to do

Identifying risk factors and living a healthy lifestyle can help reduce the risk of cardiovascular events. Follow these tips to a heart-healthy lifestyle:

1. Don’t smoke.

2. Exercise on most days.

3. Eat a healthy diet.

4. Control high blood pressure.

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5. Control blood sugar.

6. Control high cholesterol.

7. Maintain a healthy weight.

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