Migraine Headache Suffers Beware

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Migraine Headache Sufferers Beware

Patients that suffer from migraine headaches during midlife years, especially migraine with aura, have been shown to have an increased risk of developing Parkinson’s disease in later life. Research study data describing the link between migraine and Parkinson’s disease was published in the September 17th online edition of Neurology. Previously published data has linked the risk of stroke to migraine with aura, and more recent additional research, involving women who suffer with migraine headaches, shows an increased likelihood of those patients developing cardiovascular disease.


Research results linking midlife migraine headache to an increase in risk for later life Parkinson’s disease was based on a population-based cohort study established in 1967, following over 5000 patients into their late 70’s. Information was collected about headache when this patient group was about 51 years of age, and the link to Parkinson’s was evaluated at a mean age of 77 years. The study’s lead author, Ann Scher, PhD, professor of epidemiology for the Department of Preventive Medicine and Biometrics in Bethesda Maryland, is confident in the study results, but also says more targeted studies that include brain imaging and neurologic examinations are warranted.

Dr. Anke Winter, MD, clinical epidemiologist and assistant professor at the Division of Public Health Sciences and Department of Surgery at Washington University School of Medicine, St. Louis, Missouri, presented the study data involving the risk of cardiovascular disease in women with migraine at the 56th American Headache Society Scientific Meeting in June of this year. Dr. Winter presented study results showing a 1.5% greater risk for the development of serious cardiovascular disease in women with a diagnosis of migraine, compared to women with no reports of migraine.

The researchers collected information from participants in the Nurse’s Health Study, which began in 1989 and enrolled more than 115,000 women. The cardiovascular risk profile included comparisons in areas such as history of hypertension, body mass index, hypercholesterolemia, smoking habits, postmenopausal hormone therapy, and a family history of MI. The review of the data revealed a statistically significant risk of developing cardiovascular disease in women reporting migraine headache as compared to women with no report of headache. The data results also showed an increased risk for secondary cardiovascular outcomes, including myocardial infarction, stroke, angina, and death from a cardiovascular related event.

Critics of the study presentation felt the data would have been more useful if the results had been available for those with migraine and aura, and those without aura. Recent research, focusing on the mechanism behind migraine headache, has made progress in the association of causes that may link migraine with aura to vascular outcomes such as stroke. Dr. Winter shares the view that further research in this area is warranted.

References for this article are available upon request.
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