Women who experience migraine headaches before menopause may have an increased risk of high blood pressure later in life. This statement comes from a new study done by the American Academy of Neurology.
Migraines can be debilitating and are typically experienced more often in women than men. It is most often recorded in women in the years leading up to menopause and it decreases after menopause. Severe headaches are a risk for cardiovascular disease, so researchers wanted to determine if a history of migraine has a relationship with an increased risk of high blood pressure after menopause.
The study published in Neurology involved 56,202 women who did not have high blood pressure or cardiovascular disease when their menopause started. Of these participants, 46,659 women never had a migraine, and 9,543 women had experienced it at a point in their life. All participants were followed for up to 20 years and were required to complete health questionnaires every two to three years.
By the conclusion of the study, a total of 11,030 women experienced a migraine, and 12,051 women developed high blood pressure during the study. A total of 9,041 of these women had no migraines, and 3,100 women had migraines. It was found that women with migraines developed high blood pressure at a younger age. The average age of diagnosis for women without migraines was 65, and for women with migraines, it was 63.
Calculations Using Person Years
The results were calculated using person-years, which represent both the number of people in the study and the amount of time each participant had spent in the study. For women without migraines, the risk of developing high blood pressure was 14 cases for every 1,000 person-years. For participants without migraines, the rate was 19 cases per 1,000 person-years. Results were adjusted for factors such as physical activity levels, history of cardiovascular disease, and body mass index.
Study author Gianluca Severi concluded, “There are multiple ways in which migraine may be linked to high blood pressure. People with migraines have been shown to have early signs of arterial stiffness. Stiffer, smaller vessels are not as capable of accommodating blood flow, resulting in pressure increases. It is also possible that associations could be due to genetics. Since previous research shows migraine increases the likelihood of cardiovascular events, identification of additional risk factors such as the higher likelihood of high blood pressure among people with migraine could aid in individualized treatment or prevention. Doctors may want to consider women with a history of migraine at a higher risk of high blood pressure.”