Study results indicate that older migraine sufferers may be more likely to sustain a silent brain injury. The study appears in the American Heart Association’s journal Stroke. According to the study, individuals with a history of migraine headaches faced double the odds of ischemic silent brain infarction when compared to individuals who reported that they did not have migraines.

Teshamae Monteith, MD, lead study author, assistant professor of clinical neurology and chief of the Headache Division at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine, states, “I do not believe migraine sufferers should worry, as the risk of ischemic stroke in people with migraine is considered small.”

Yet Monteith cautions, “those with migraine and vascular risk factors 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.”

While high blood pressure was more common in those with migraine, the results suggest the link between migraine and silent brain infarction was also observed in participants with normal blood pressure.

According to a news release from the American Heart Association, in response to the reported increase in stroke risk among Hispanics and African-Americans, researchers from the Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS) studied a mulit-ethnic group of older adults in New York City. About 65% were Hispanic. Researchers reportedly compared magnetic resonance imaging results between 104 individuals with a history of migraine and 442 without.

The results indicated a doubling of silent brain infarctions in individuals with migraine, even after adjusting for other stroke risk factors. The results also suggested that there was no increase in the volume of white-matter hyperintensitites that have been linked to migraine in other studies. Additionally, the researchers found that migraines with aura were not common in participants and was not necessary for the link with silent cerebral infarctions.

Monteith emphasizes that while the lesions appeared to be ischemic, “based on their radiographic description, further research is needed to confirm our findings.”

The release states that the study results give way to a question of whether preventative treatment to reduce severity and number of migraines might reduce stroke risk or silent cerebral infarction. Monteith explains that researchers do not yet know if treatment for migraines will impact stroke risk reduction, but recommends treatment from a migraine specialist for individuals whose headaches are out of control.

Source: American Heart Association