Study finds that men who suffer from migraines are at increased risk for cardiovascular events

November 14, 2006

Men who suffer from migraines are at increased risk for cardiovascular events, according to researchers. The new findings follow similar reports that women with migraines are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

Men who suffer from migraines are at increased risk for cardiovascular events, according to researchers. The new findings follow similar reports that women with migraines are at higher risk for cardiovascular disease.

"This does not mean that people with migraines should panic," said Tobias Kurth, MD, ScD, associate epidemiologist at Brigham and Women's Hospital, Boston, Mass., and assistant professor of medicine at Harvard Medical School. Dr. Kurth led the study team that produced both findings.

"We do not know how or why migraines are associated with increased cardiovascular risk," Dr. Kurth said at a press briefing on Tuesday afternoon. "Physicians and patients with migraine should pay even more attention to traditional cardiovascular risk factors such as high blood pressure, diabetes, cholesterol, smoking, and obesity."

Data from the Physicians' Health Study, which began in 1982, demonstrated that men who reported migraine had a 24% increased risk of all cardiovascular events. The increased risk was driven largely by a 42% increase in the risk of myocardial infarction.

At the beginning of the study, men with migraines were found to have a slightly higher prevalence of hypertension and hypercholesterolemia. Analysis of more than 15 years of health data controlled for both of these pre-existing factors, Dr. Kurth said.

The data are similar to findings from the Women's Health Study. The major difference is that increased cardiovascular risk in women is associated with migraine aura, the visual and neurologic disturbances that frequently precede a migraine attack. The Physician's Health Study did not question male subjects about aura because when the study was designed, researchers were not yet aware of the relationship between migraine and CVD.

"This study and the study in women support the hypothesis that migraine is associated with heart disease," Dr. Kurth said. "The mechanism behind the association is not at all clear. Suspected mechanisms include an increase in thrombolytic factors and inflammatory factors."

He added: "The reality is that we don't really know. Physicians should continue to emphasize modifying other risk factors with their patients."