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Women with migraines and visual symptoms may have higher stroke risk

Women who have migraine headaches with visual symptoms (or aura) may be at increased risk for stroke compared to women who do not have migraines, researchers reported in Stroke: Journal of the American Heart Association.

The risk association between stroke and migraines also increases when other factors are added, such as recent onset of these headaches, smoking and oral contraceptive use.

Women with recent onset of probable migraine with visual symptoms (within the prior year) were almost seven times more likely to have a stroke compared to women with no history of migraine, said Steven Kittner, M.D., M.P.H., senior author of the study and staff physician at Baltimore Veterans Affairs (VA) Medical Center. Eight percent of stroke cases had onset of probable migraine with visual symptoms in the prior year compared to one percent of controls.

Second, and probably the most important finding, women who had probable migraine with visual symptoms who also smoked and used oral contraceptives had seven times the risk of stroke than women who had probable migraine with visual symptoms alone.

Migraine and stroke share some common risk factors, including high blood pressure and patent foramen ovale (PFO); both have a hereditary basis. While a baby grows in the womb, he or she has a normal opening between the hearts left and right atria (upper chambers). If this opening doesnt close naturally soon after the birth, the hole is called PFO.

Furthermore, migraine has long been regarded as a risk factor for ischemic stroke (stroke caused by a blot clot blocking blood flow to the brain). Few prior studies have addressed the different potential reasons for an association between migraine and stroke.

Researchers analyzed stroke incidence among 386 women 15-to 49-years-old with a first ischemic stroke and 614 women of similar ages and ethnicities who had not had stroke. Based on their responses to a questionnaire, the women were classified into th
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Contact: Bridgette McNeill
bridgette.mcneill@heart.org
214-706-1135
American Heart Association
9-Aug-2007


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