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Conventional vascular risk factors: their role in the association between migraine and cardiovascular diseases

Simona Sacco, Francesca Pistoia, Diana Degan, Antonio Carolei
Cephalalgia: An International Journal of Headache 2015, 35 (2): 146-64
25505017

INTRODUCTION: Migraine, in particular migraine with aura, has been found to be associated with cardiovascular disease. However, the role of conventional vascular risk factors in the association is still debated. The aim of the present review is to address the association between migraine and conventional cardiovascular risk factors as well as to address their possible role in the association between migraine and cardiovascular disease.

METHODS: Data for this review were obtained through searches in multiple sources up to May 2014 using the terms "migraine" OR "headache" in combination with all the vascular risk factors of interest.

RESULTS: Data about the possible association between migraine and high blood pressure values are heterogeneous, hindering any final conclusion. Data addressing the possible association between migraine and diabetes mellitus indicate the lack of any association or in some cases a negative association between the two conditions. The body of evidence on the role of dyslipidemia in migraineurs is relatively homogeneous and, with few exceptions, reports an association between migraine and an unfavorable lipid profile; however, the difference in lipid levels between migraineurs and non-migraineurs is small and its clinical implication unclear. Regarding obesity, a trend has been observed of increased risk of migraine with increasing obesity, especially in young patients, albeit in the midst of conflicting data. Evidence about the association between cigarette smoking and migraine mostly indicates that migraineurs are more commonly smokers than non-migraineurs. On the other hand, the majority of the available studies report less alcohol use in migraineurs than in non-migraineurs. Finally, many of the available studies suggest a more frequent family history of cardiovascular disease in migraineurs as compared to non-migraineurs. Since most of the studies that supported the association between migraine and cardiovascular disease adjusted the analyses for the presence of several vascular risk factors, they cannot entirely explain this association.

CONCLUSIONS: Based on the available reported data, it seems unlikely that the higher risk of cardiovascular disease in migraineurs is mediated by any single vascular risk factor. For this reason the role of specific interactions among risk factors with the contribution of genetic, environmental, personality and psychological factors should be appropriately investigated.

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