A new study published in the May 15th issue of American Heart and Stroke Association’s medical journal Stroke, suggests that older migraineurs have an double the risk of suffering from silent brain injuries and ischemic stroke than those who do not experience migraines.
Silent strokes can be asymptomatic i.e they do not show symptoms but increase the risk of future strokes. Silent stroke or a silent brain infarction is caused by a blood clot getting into the brain artery and thus interrupting the supply of blood, oxygen and nutrients to brain tissue surrounding the clot thus killing it.
As per Teshamae Monteith, M.D., lead author of the study, “I do not believe migraine sufferers should worry, as the risk of ischemic stroke in people with migraine is considered small. However, those with migraine and vascular risk factors may want to pay even greater attention to lifestyle changes that can reduce stroke risk, such as exercising and eating a low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables.” (2)
He raised caution that if an older migraineurs had other coexisting conditions like a high blood pressure (hypertension) or a sedentary lifestyle, it would add to the risk factor for suffering silent strokes and brain damage. He thus advised them to take medication to address hypertension and to bring it under control.
The study was a research on diverse ethnic groups including people of Hispanic and African origin. It was a collaborative investigation conducted by University of Miami and Columbia University.
Some of the highlights of the study were as follows: (3)
- Approximate 40% of the population studied comprised of men.
- The average age of the population was around 71 years old.
- 65% of the population under study was of Hispanic origin.
- Of the 546 studied, 104 had a history of migraines.
Some conclusions arrived at were as:
- Risk of silent brain infarctions in those with migraine double even after adjusting other stroke risk factors.
- Migraines with aura were not a deciding factor in measuring risk of silent strokes.
- No real increase in the volume of white matter/ Small blood vessel anamolies was associated with migraines.
- Some lesions came across in radiographic images as having ischemic origins but more research was required to confirm this.
According to Monteith, “We still don’t know if treatment for migraines will have an impact on stroke risk reduction, but it may be a good idea to seek treatment from a migraine specialist if your headaches are out of control. (4)
Previous studies indicated migraine could be an important stroke risk factor for younger people.
- Image Credit: Ischemic stroke; Heart & Stroke Foundation – Canada; Web May 2014; http://www.heartandstroke.com/site/c.ikIQLcMWJtE/b.3484151/k.7916/Stroke__Ischemic_stroke.htm
- Older migraine sufferers may have more silent brain injury; Science Daily News; Web May 2014; http://www.sciencedaily.com/releases/2014/05/140515163826.htm
- Abstract of the study can be accessed at: http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2014/05/15/STROKEAHA.114.005447.abstract
- Older people with migraines ‘more likely to have silent brain injury’; Medical News Today; Web May 2014; http://www.medicalnewstoday.com/articles/276842.php
Details of the study published in AHA journal, Stroke: http://stroke.ahajournals.org/content/early/2014/05/15/STROKEAHA.114.005447.full.pdf+html
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