Thursday, June 03, 2010

Limit Migraine Triggers to Avoid Stroke

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A review of 21 studies concerning migraine and stroke reinforces the existing belief there is a connection between the two conditions. What is not yet known is whether there is a true cause and effect relationship between migraine attacks and ischemic strokes, which occur when a blood clot disrupts the flow of blood to the brain. Rather, the author of this review study believes it is more likely ischemic strokes and migraines happen the same way in the brain.

According to MAGNUM, 27% of all strokes are experienced by migraineurs and are thought to be associated in some way with their migraine attacks. Patient advocate Teri Robert shares this view. A few years ago she wrote an article about a previous review of existing studies on stroke and migraine attacks. She interviewed Dr. Fred Sheftell, founder and director of the New England Center for Headache, who shared these statistics:

  • The average stroke prevalence in women in the general population is 9 per 100,000, which represents absolute risk. 
  • If patients with migraine have an average of 2.16 times greater risk that's about 20 per 100,000, still a very low absolute risk. 
  • For patients taking oral contraceptives, the absolute risk is about 75 per 100,000.

There is no doubt this sounds scary, but it's no reason for panic. First and foremost, the increased risk is still very small. However, the risk is serious enough that you're encouraged to take control of the factors you can limit to reduce your likelihood of experiencing a stroke. Experts recommend avoiding any triggers you possibly can that tend to bring on your attacks. Not all triggers are avoidable, such as weather, but many others, such as a consistent schedule, are largely within your control. They also suggest trying other tactics, such as medication, to prevent attacks if you and your doctor decide preventive medication is appropriate.

As an aside I recently read a couple of articles on a newer migraine blog indicating there is no reason for migraine patients to be concerned about stroke. All the research disagrees. I encourage you to do some reading in addition to what I've said here because I think you'll quickly realize the sources I've provided are right that it is something to be aware of. An informed patient is a healthier patient.

Study Confirms Link Between Migraines & Stroke
Migraine Sufferers at Greater Risk of a Stroke
Migraines: Myth vs. Reality
Migraine & Stroke Risk: The Study
Migraine with Aura & Ischemic Stroke: Which Additional Factors Matter?
Preventive Treatments

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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.