In a new review of the famous Women’s Health Study, analysis is showing that women face an increased risk of both heart attack and stroke if they get migraine headaches with aura. This was not the same for women with migraine and no aura, who did not appear to face an increased risk.
What is an aura, exactly? Well, basically an aura includes symptoms that make it apparent a migraine attack is about to happen. Typically, an aura can consist of symptoms that have the person seeing zigzag lines and flashing lights, but these do vary from person to person. An aura often can develop over five to 20 minutes, gradually, and can last for as long as 60 minutes. It is a recurring neurological disorder that signals the start of a migraine.
Headed by Dr. Tobias Kurth, from the Harvard Medical School, along with other analysts, included the findings in a paper that was printed in the Journal of the American Medical Association. Mainly, they noted that the link between aura migraines and stroke has already been well documented. However, it is this link between aura migraines and heart attack that comes as a new finding that has yet to be fully established by researchers.
Dr. Kurth and his team therefore set out to examine this link by reviewing documented events that occurred among 27,840 women (ages 45 and up), who did not have a history of either heart attack or stroke when they signed up for the Women’s Health Study. This was back between 1992 and 1995. The number of women who experienced active migraines sat at 3,610. Out of this number, 1,434 women did experience an aura along with their migraines.
After 10 years of following up on these women, it was found that 251 experienced a stroke, 249 experienced heart attack, and finally 130 died from related causes. When looking at the women with a history of getting migraines with an aura, their risk of both heart attack and stroke doubled, as opposed to those women who only got migraines without the accompanying aura or no migraines at all.
Other researchers noting on the analysis done by Dr. Kurth and his team think that genetic factors may be at play here. This could make people more predisposed to heart attacks, stroke, and aura migraines, which is definitely something that warrants more research and analysis in the future.
More research is needed into how aura migraines affect men and younger women, but this is certainly a link you may want to discuss with your doctor if you experience aura migraines on a regular basis. You may be at an increased risk for heart attack and stroke — yet another reason to quit smoking, start eating right, and exercising in order to help improve your hearth health.