Migraine and heart disease

An article in the journal Frontiers in Neurology in 2010 highlighted the conditions that tend to occur more often in people with migraine. These conditions are called co-morbid conditions. This means that they occur more commonly that you would expect by chance alone.

There are a number of conditions that tend to occur more often in people with migraine, like asthma, epilepsy, and mood disorders. Heart disease has also been linked to migraine. Studies consistently show that people with migraine are at higher risk for having both heart disease risk factors, like high blood pressure, and stroke. Understanding this association is important if you're a migraine sufferer. You can use this information to help empower you to make healthy changes to reduce your overall heart disease risk.

Reducing your risk for heart disease

Many people have heart disease risk factors they can't change. You can't change your genes if heart disease runs in your family. And you can't change being a migraine sufferer. The good news is that these risk factors are relatively weak risks for having a heart attack. The better news is that the stronger predictors of heart disease are things you can change:

  • Check your blood pressure and cholesterol levels. If they are too high, talk to your doctor about how to get them under better control.
  • If you have diabetes, talk to your doctor about strategies to control your blood sugars. A study that will be published in the Journal of Applied Physiology later this year found significant reductions in blood pressure, cholesterol, glucose, and weight in patients with diabetes following a diet program.
  • If you smoke--quit. Contact 1-800-QUIT-NOW or visit this website to help you get started.
  • Check your weight. Use a body mass index to see if you're overweight. You can find a number online. Develop a diet and exercise program to help you reduce your weight. You don't have to lose all of your excess weight to get great health benefits. Studies consistently show that sustained modest weight loss significantly reduces your risks for diabetes, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, heart disease, lung disease, and other chronic degenerative illnesses.
  • Make aerobic exercise part of your daily routine. The World Health Organization recommends a total of 150 minutes per week--that's 30 minutes 5 days a week. You don't need a gym membership to benefit from daily exercise. The journal Heart Advisor recommended walking the dog as an effective aerobic exercise for people "who hate to exercise." You can get a free downloadable dog walking diary to help you get started.

Making these healthy lifestyle changes is important for everyone--and even more important if you have risk factors for heart disease, including migraine.

Testing for heart disease

In the February issue of the journal Headache, experts tackled the question of whether migraine sufferers should get special screening tests to look for heart disease and heart disease risk factors. They concluded that migraine patients should have the same type of screening that's recommended for all patients--a review of their history of heart disease and their risk factors. They also recommended using those risk modification strategies listed above as the most important techniques for reducing heart disease risk in migraine patients.

So, if you're a migraine sufferer, don't worry about heart disease. Use your knowledge that your risk is a bit higher than people without migraines to motivate you to decrease your risk by tackling important risk factors that you can.

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This article represents the opinions, thoughts, and experiences of the author; none of this content has been paid for by any advertiser. The Migraine.com team does not recommend or endorse any products or treatments discussed herein. Learn more about how we maintain editorial integrity here.

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