Now accepting Telehealth appointments. Schedule a virtual visit.

Are Migraines Linked to Heart Disease and Stroke?

Are Migraines Linked to Heart Disease and Stroke?

Migraines affect nearly 40 million people in the United States, and these incapacitating headaches are three times more common in women. People who have migraines frequently feel queasy and are sensitive to light and sound. In addition, up to one-third of migraine sufferers have strange visual or bodily experiences known as an aura.

The aura usually occurs just before the headache, though some people only feel the aura and not the headache. Both types of migraine are referred to as migraine with aura or classic migraine, and both are linked to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease and stroke.

Internal medicine and primary care physician Samuel I. Fink, MD, in Tarzana, California, can help you manage your migraines and protect your heart health. Here, we examine the connection between migraines and heart disease.

What exactly is migraine aura?

A migraine aura is a visual or sensory disturbance that occurs within an hour of the onset of intense headache. A blind patch that affects both eyes is a common symptom.

Migraine-related blind spots are often white or gray, with a shimmering or sparkling zigzag that grows across one side of the visual field and eventually goes off into the peripheral vision. One common variety is dubbed “fortification spectrum” because the pattern of geometrical lines resembles the walls of a medieval fort.

An aura can also cause tingling on one side of the body, particularly in your face or hand. Language auras, which can also occur with a stroke or ministroke, occur infrequently and cause transitory speaking difficulty. 

Auras can occasionally induce one-sided paralysis in a limb, arm, or face, which is known as a hemiplegic migraine. Again, similar symptoms can occur as a result of a stroke or ministroke.

Research links migraines with increased heart disease and stroke risk

It’s important to know that the link between migraines and heart disease and stroke remains unclear, and more research is necessary. Various studies have found a link between migraine and increased incidence of cardiovascular disease.

Other research has focused on the link between migraine and stroke. The increased risk of stroke is linked to migraine with aura. Additionally, this increased risk has been observed in women but not men. 

What’s the connection?

Experts aren't sure why migraine raises the risk of heart disease and stroke. It’s thought that abnormal patterns of electrical activity in the brain may cause migraines. This abnormal electrical activity may affect your cardiovascular system.

Another theory is that migraine aura may be linked to blood vessel instability, which makes you more prone to cardiovascular problems.

Protecting your heart and blood vessels

Keep in mind that most studies linking migraine to heart disease and stroke have been conducted in women age 45 and over. However, migraine with aura is more prevalent in younger women who are generally at a low risk for heart disease and stroke.

If you're 45 and older, talk to Dr. Fink about reducing your risk factors, such as high cholesterol or high blood pressure. Managing any existing risk factors helps to protect your cardiovascular system. 

If you’re younger than 45 and concerned about your cardiovascular health, don’t hesitate to discuss it with a specialist like Dr. Fink. Never ignore new migraine symptoms. If your usual aura consists of flashes of light, but you begin to feel numbness or weakness in your hand, see your doctor right away. 

Our team provides the best internal medicine in Tarzana, and you can count on us to help you maintain wellness. If you’re concerned about your migraines, come in to see us. Call to schedule a visit with Dr. Fink or request an appointment online today.

You Might Also Enjoy...

Why Do My Fingers Hurt When It's Cold

Why Do My Fingers Hurt When It's Cold

Painful fingers during chilly weather may indicate issues with circulation or finger joints. In any event, seeing a health care provider can help you get the answers and the treatment you need to soothe your fingers. 

Can I Control Irritable Bowel Syndrome With My Diet Alone?

Knowing what to eat to control symptoms of irritable bowel syndrome (IBS) can help limit the impact of IBS on your quality of life. Teaming up with an experienced health care provider provides the best opportunity to effectively manage symptoms.
I'm Overweight: Is That the Root Cause of My Sleep Apnea?

I'm Overweight: Is That the Root Cause of My Sleep Apnea?

Being overweight can impact your health in various ways, including increasing your risk for sleep apnea. The good news is that losing even a modest amount of weight can improve symptoms, and getting back to a healthy weight may resolve it completely.
The Dangers of Hypertension

The Dangers of Hypertension

High blood pressure has a sneaky way of staying silent, often causing damage while flying under the radar. Left unchecked, hypertension can ramp up health risks, from heart issues to life-threatening events.
Are My Sleep Problems Genetic?

Are My Sleep Problems Genetic?

Are you tossing and turning through the night? It's not just an old mattress or too much caffeine that could be to blame. When sleep problems persist, you may be left wondering if there's a deeper reason.