FOX4: Women who have migraines are at higher risk for heart attacks and strokes

June 3, 2016

One in five people, mostly women, will have migraines for at least part of their lives. New research finds women with a history of those headaches are at higher risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Research from the Nurses Health Study II finds there's another concern for women with a history of migraines. It looked at thousands of women over more than 20 years. Overall, women who'd had migraines were about 50 percent more likely to have cardiovascular disease compared to women who didn't have those headaches. They had a 40 percent higher risk of heart attacks and a 60 percent higher risk of strokes. Previous studies have also linked migraines to strokes, but not so much to heart trouble.

The research didn't show why the association exists, but Dr. James O'Keefe of Saint Luke's Hospital says migraines, heart attacks and strokes all involve the lining of blood vessels misbehaving.

"Basically what happens is it's constricting at inappropriate times, and that's what causes a migraine headache, a cramping down of a blood vessel in the brain,"  Dr. O'Keefe said.

The heart specialist says women with migraines shouldn't be alarmed, but they should take the findings to heart.

Watch the full story on FOX4. 

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