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Migraine with aura increases risk of stroke

[Posted: Wed 28/10/2009 by Olivia Fens]

Migraine with aura (temporary visual or sensory disturbances before or during a migraine headache) can double the risk of stroke, a new study has found.

According to researchers, having migraines and being a woman, being young, being a smoker, and using oestrogen containing contraceptives also increases the risk of stroke.

But the risk was highest among young women with migraine with aura who smoke and use oestrogen containing contraceptives.

The study found no association between migraine and heart attack or death due to cardiovascular disease.

Migraine is a common, chronic disorder that affects up to 20% of the population. Women are affected up to four times more often than men.

Up to one-third of sufferers also experience an aura prior to or during a migraine headache (often described as the perception of a strange light, an unpleasant smell or confusing thoughts or experiences).

In light of the findings, the authors of the study recommend that young women who have migraine with aura should stop smoking, and methods of birth control other than oestrogen containing contraceptives should be considered.

They also called for additional research to investigate the association between migraine and cardiovascular disease in more detail.

“The absolute risk of stroke for most migraine patients is low, so a doubling of risk is not cause for panic,” the researchers said.

“However, at a population level, this risk deserves attention because the prevalence of migraine is so high.”

The study was published in the British Medical Journal.

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