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Migraine link to high risk of heart disease

People who suffer migraines accompanied by visual or sensory disturbances are at higher risk of dying from heart disease and stroke, experts said today.

The risk of dying from any disease is 21pc higher in people who suffer migraine with aura (disturbances before or during a migraine) compared to those who do not suffer migraine headaches, a study found.

Analysis for individual diseases found people who suffer migraine with aura are 27pc more likely to die from cardiovascular disease than those who do not.

When these cardiovascular deaths were analysed, there was a 28pc higher risk of dying from coronary heart disease for those suffering migraine with aura and a 40pc higher risk of dying from stroke.

However, the researchers behind the study said the absolute risks for people with migraine and aura are still low.

The research found no increased risk of dying for people who suffer migraines without aura.

Today's study, published online in the British Medical Journal (BMJ), examined data from 18,725 men and women born between 1907 and 1935 and living in Iceland.

The group was followed for up to 40 years to assess the impact of migraine on sufferers compared with non-sufferers.

The team of experts, led by Larus Gudmundsson from the University of Iceland, noted that people who suffer the most frequent attacks of migraine with aura could have the highest risks. Men were also marginally more likely than women to be at risk.

However, the researchers said commonly known risks for heart disease, such as smoking, diabetes, and high blood pressure, still carried the highest risks.

They called for more research and concluded: "People with migraine, particularly those with migraine with aura, are at a modestly increased risk of mortality, independent of classic risk factors for cardiovascular disease measured in mid-life."

Judy O'Sullivan, senior cardiac nurse at the British Heart Foundation (BHF), said: "This study identifies a small increased risk of death from heart and circulatory disease for anyone who suffers from migraine with aura.

"Like everyone else, those affected should be vigilant when it comes to spotting signs of a heart attack, and should call r an ambulance immediately if they're worried.

hnews@herald.ie