Older migraine sufferers may have more silent brain injury

May 15, 2014

Older migraine sufferers may be more likely to have silent brain injury, according to research published in the American Heart Association's journal Stroke.

In a new study, people with a history of had double the odds of ischemic silent brain infarction compared to people who said they didn't have migraines. Silent brain infarction is a brain injury likely caused by a blood clot interrupting blood flow to brain tissue. Sometimes called "silent strokes," these injuries are symptomless and are a risk factor for future strokes.

Previous studies indicated migraine could be an important factor for younger people.

"I do not believe migraine sufferers should worry, as the risk of in people with migraine is considered small," said Teshamae Monteith, M.D., lead author of the study and assistant professor of clinical neurology and chief of the Headache Division at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine. "However, those with migraine and vascular may want to pay even greater attention to lifestyle changes that can reduce stroke risk, such as exercising and eating a low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables."

High blood pressure, another important stroke risk factor, was more common in those with migraine. But the association between migraine and silent brain infarction was also found in participants with normal blood pressure.

Because Hispanics and African-Americans are at increased stroke risk, researchers from the Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS) – a collaborative investigation between the University of Miami and Columbia University – studied a multi-ethnic group of older adults (41 percent men, average age 71) in New York City. About 65 percent of participants were Hispanic. Comparing magnetic resonance imaging results between 104 people with a history of migraine and 442 without, they found:

  • A doubling of silent brain infarctions in those with migraine even after adjusting for other ;
  • No increase in the volume of white-matter hyperintensities (small blood vessel abnormalities) that have been associated with migraine in other studies;
  • Migraines with aura—changes in vision or other senses preceding the headache—wasn't common in participants and wasn't necessary for the association with silent cerebral infarctions.

"While the lesions appeared to be ischemic, based on their radiographic description, further research is needed to confirm our findings," Monteith said.

The research raises the question of whether preventive treatment to reduce the severity and number of migraines could reduce the risk of stroke or silent cerebral infarction.

"We still don't know if treatment for migraines will have an impact on stroke risk reduction, but it may be a good idea to seek treatment from a specialist if your headaches are out of control," Monteith said.

Explore further: Migraine may permanently change brain structure

Related Stories

Migraine may permanently change brain structure

August 28, 2013
Migraine may have long-lasting effects on the brain's structure, according to a study published in the August 28, 2013, online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

Migraines associated with higher incidence of brain lesions among women; effect on health uncertain

November 13, 2012
After nearly 10 years of follow-up of study participants who experienced migraines and who had brain lesions indentified via magnetic resonance imaging, women with migraines had a higher prevalence and greater increase of ...

Obesity may be associated with even occasional migraines

September 11, 2013
People who get occasional migraines are more likely to be obese than people who do not have migraines, according to a study published in the September 11, 2013, online issue of Neurology.

Migraine with aura may lead to heart attack, blood clots for women

January 15, 2013
Women who have migraines with aura, which are often visual disturbances such as flashing lights, may be more likely to have problems with their heart and blood vessels, and those on newer contraceptives may be at higher risk ...

Migraine is associated with variations in structure of brain arteries

July 27, 2013
The network of arteries supplying blood flow to the brain is more likely to be incomplete in people who suffer migraine, a new study by researchers in the Perelman School of Medicine at the University of Pennsylvania reports. ...

Good news: Migraines hurt your head but not your brain

August 10, 2012
Migraines currently affect about 20 percent of the female population, and while these headaches are common, there are many unanswered questions surrounding this complex disease. Previous studies have linked this disorder ...

Recommended for you

Could aggressive blood pressure treatments lead to kidney damage?

July 18, 2017
Aggressive combination treatments for high blood pressure that are intended to protect the kidneys may actually be damaging the organs, new research from the University of Virginia School of Medicine suggests.

Quantifying effectiveness of treatment for irregular heartbeat

July 17, 2017
In a small proof-of-concept study, researchers at Johns Hopkins report a complex mathematical method to measure electrical communications within the heart can successfully predict the effectiveness of catheter ablation, the ...

Concerns over side effects of statins stopping stroke survivors taking medication

July 17, 2017
Negative media coverage of the side effects associated with taking statins, and patients' own experiences of taking the drugs, are among the reasons cited by stroke survivors and their carers for stopping taking potentially ...

Study discovers anticoagulant drugs are being prescribed against safety advice

July 17, 2017
A study by researchers at the University of Birmingham has shown that GPs are prescribing anticoagulants to patients with an irregular heartbeat against official safety advice.

Protein may protect against heart attack

July 14, 2017
DDK3 could be used as a new therapy to stop the build-up of fatty material inside the arteries

Heart study finds faulty link between biomarkers and clinical outcomes

July 14, 2017
Surrogate endpoints (biomarkers), which are routinely used in clinical research to test new drugs, should not be trusted as the ultimate measure to approve new health interventions in cardiovascular medicine, according to ...

0 comments

Please sign in to add a comment. Registration is free, and takes less than a minute. Read more

Click here to reset your password.
Sign in to get notified via email when new comments are made.