TUESDAY, Aug. 24 (HealthDay News) -- People who suffer migraines
with aura are at increased risk of dying from heart disease and
stroke, but the individual risk for a migraine sufferer is low, two
new studies show.
Auras -- temporary visual or sensory disturbances that occur
before or during a migraine headache -- affect about one in five
migraine sufferers, according to the U.S. National Women's Health
Both studies were published in the Aug. 25 online edition of the
In one study, Larus Gudmundsson from the University of Iceland
and colleagues examined the impact of mid-life migraines in 18,725
men and women born between 1907 and 1935 who took part in research
(the Reykjavik Study) that was launched in 1967 to study heart
disease in Iceland.
Based on their analysis of a 26-year follow-up of the study
participants, Gudmundsson's team concluded that men and women who
suffered migraine with aura were at increased risk of dying from
heart disease and stroke, as well as all other causes. Those with
migraine without aura were not at increased risk.
In addition, the researchers found that women with migraine with
aura are also at increased risk of dying from causes other than
cardiovascular disease or cancer.
The individual risk faced by migraine sufferers with aura is low
and efforts to reduce their risk of heart disease-related death
should focus on eliminating conventional risk factors, including
high blood pressure, smoking and high cholesterol, the study
Additional research is needed to learn more about the link
between migraine with aura and increased risk of death from
cardiovascular disease and other causes, the team stated in a news
release from the journal's publisher.
"Finally, studies are needed to determine if reducing the frequency of attacks with migraine preventive treatment might reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease," Gudmundsson and colleagues concluded.
The second study found that women who have migraines with aura
are at increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke (bleeding in the
brain). Hemorrhagic strokes account for about 20 percent of all
strokes. However, Dr. Tobias Kurth and colleagues at the National
Institute of Health and Medical Research in France said the risk
remains low and further research is required to confirm their
It's unclear whether doctors should inform patients about the
increased risk of death associated with migraine with aura, Dr.
Klaus Berger, of the University of Muenster in Germany, wrote in an
editorial accompanying the first study.
Berger believes that "for many people the information will cause
an unwarranted amount of anxiety, although others may use the
opportunity to modify their lifestyle and risk factors
Doctors "must carefully weigh the decision whether or not to
discuss the risks related to this condition," Berger concluded.
The U.S. National Women's Health Information Center has more