MONDAY, March 21, 2005 (HealthDay News) -- Contrary to popular theory, the majority of migraines do not increase the risk of stroke in women, new research finds.
The Boston study did find evidence that migraines accompanied by aura may increase stroke risk in a small number of women, however.
"We can finally stress to patients that, in general, headaches do not increase the risk of stroke, a theory that has been popularized but was only supported by limited data," Dr. Tobias Kurth, a researcher in Brigham and Women's Hospital division of preventive medicine, said in a prepared statement.
Reporting in the March 22 issue of Neurology, Kurth's group followed the health outcomes of more than 39,000 women for up to nine years. During the study, a total of 385 strokes occurred among the study participants.
The study showed that "only a particular type of migraine -- migraine with aura -- may increase the risk of stroke in women aged 45 or older," the researcher said.
His team concluded that migraines with aura may up the overall incidence of stroke in women by about four additional stroke cases per 10,000 women per year. Women who suffer migraines with aura have a 1.5-fold increase in total stroke risk and a 1.7-fold increase in ischemic stroke risk compared to women without migraines, the researchers found.
"Looking at the data in this light emphasizes that the migraine-stroke link should not cause alarm. What it does suggest is that more research is needed to unveil factors that, in addition to migraine with aura, may cause a stroke event in women," Kurth said.
He added that, "with regard to potential consequences for migraineurs with aura, they should look to modify other important health behaviors such as smoking, hypertension, diet and physical activity to reduce their stroke risk."
The National Women's Health Information Center has more about stroke and heart disease risk.