Migraine headaches are prevalent in 12 percent of the population in the United States and are the most common type of chronic headache worldwide. A recent field of study surrounding migraines has attempted to explore the possible connection between migraines and cardiovascular and cerebrovascular conditions, under the belief that migraines may result in an increased risk of these conditions occurring. So far, the research has been inconsistent in its findings.
A new study that was recently published attempted to mitigate some of the problems associated with previous studies with a comprehensive meta-analysis that looked at the effects of a migraine on the cardiovascular and cerebrovascular systems over a longer time period.
The researchers analyzed the data from 16 studies, including a total of 1,152,407 participants, broken into 394,942 participants with migraines and 757,465 participants without. Studies were included only if they offered results for both a migraine and non-migraine participants. All the studies analyzed had extended follow-up periods, with one lasting 26 years in total.
The overall result of the study showed that a migraine is associated with an increased risk of major cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events. More specifically, the results showed that these outcomes were increased further when migraine sufferers experience auras with their headaches. Auras are vision inhibitors, often taking the form of spots, flashing lights, or wavy lines in one’s vision, prohibiting the patient from seeing properly throughout the duration of a migraine. Sometimes they can cause tunnel-vision or blind spots to occur and can indicate an incoming migraine before it fully develops.
All-cause mortality, stroke, and heart attack were found more commonly as time went on, meaning the longer patients suffered from migraines the more likely these were to occur. This indicates a higher risk of these cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events with a longer period of follow up, which is one of the strengths of this study compared to others in this field recently, which often examined migraines over shorter lengths of time than the studies included in this particular analysis. This information is crucial for the development of future guidelines surrounding the treatment of migraines in association with cardiovascular and cerebrovascular risks.
With the association of migraine headaches and increased risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular events clearly represented in these 16 studies, the researchers believe these results could have implications on the needed treatment for migraine sufferers. The increased risk of these conditions in patients with migraine-related auras also indicates a particular need to carefully observe these patients specifically and create treatment plans in the event that these medical concerns occur. Keeping an eye on cardiovascular and cerebrovascular risks could also help to prevent serious damage in the case of such an event.
According to the scientists behind this study, future research will focus on determining how these risks in migraine patients can be lowered and eliminated through treatments or other medical measures.
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