Migraine and the risk for stroke and cardiovascular disease

Simona Sacco, Tobias Kurth
Current Cardiology Reports 2014, 16 (9): 524
Numerous data have pointed to an association between migraine and cardiovascular diseases. The majority of the available data have indicated that migraine with aura can be considered a risk factor for ischemic stroke, whereas migraine without aura cannot be reliably considered as such. High frequency of attacks and a recent onset of migraine have been related to an increased ischemic stroke risk. In addition, in young subjects with ischemic stroke migraine with aura represents an independent risk factor of overall recurrent vascular events and of recurrent ischemic stroke. Also the risk of transient ischemic attack seems to be increased in migraineurs, although this issue has not been extensively investigated. Several studies have also addressed the possible association between migraine and hemorrhagic stroke. Although the results of these individual studies were conflicting, their meta-analysis showed that migraine is associated with a 1.5-fold increase in the risk of hemorrhagic stroke (including intracerebral and subarachnoid hemorrhage). Some studies have identified migraine also as a possible risk factor for cardiac vascular events while others have yielded negative results. A meta-analysis did not show an increased risk of myocardial infarction in subjects with any migraine vs no migraine but subsequently, data has pointed to an association between any migraine with cardiac ischemic disease. Migraine has also been associated by some studies with vascular mortality and with vascular diseases in regions other than the brain and the heart. Several studies have also indicated that compared with nonmigraineurs, migraineurs have a higher burden of asymptomatic white matter brain lesions and, according to some studies, also infarct-like lesions at brain magnetic resonance. The mechanisms underlying the relationship between migraine and cardiovascular disease are still unclear. The possible explanation may rely on a peculiar vascular vulnerability of migraineurs that may contribute to the pathogenesis of migraine and, in the presence of some other unknown factors may also contribute, over time, to the development of cardiovascular disease. At the moment, there are no reliable features that may indicate which subjects, across the overall migraine population, will develop vascular events and so far, no drugs are recommended for the vascular prevention in migraineurs unless other clear indications are present. In general, the acute treatment and the secondary prevention measures of a patient with stroke who has a history of migraine do not differ from that of other stroke patients. There is currently no direct evidence to support that a migraine prophylactic treatment will reduce future stroke risk in secondary prevention.

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