No Association Between Migraine and Rate of Cognitive Decline in Women

Prospective Study Finds No Association Between Migraine and Increased Rate of Cognitive Decline in Women

The prevalence of migraine among females has been estimated at approximately 20%, with about one-third of female migraine sufferers experiencing migraine with aura.[1] An association between migraine, especially migraine with aura, and increased risk of ischemic stroke has been shown.[2] Additionally, migraine has been linked to increased prevalence of silent brain lesions,[3] a recognized as a risk factor for dementia and cognitive decline in the general population.[4] While possible links between migraine and cognitive decline have been examined in a number of cross sectional[5-10] and prospective studies[11-13], these efforts have been limited by size and methodology.

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Rist and colleagues examined the association between migraine and cognitive decline as part of the Women’s Health Study, a large, prospective cohort study conducted among females in the US. The study included 6,349 women, 13.4% (853) of whom reported having a current or past history migraine. Among these women, 48.1% had a past history of migraine, 29.1% reported migraine without aura, and 22.9% reported migraine with aura. Based on the rate of change in global cognitive score from baseline through final assessment, the study found no significant difference in cognitive decline between women with no history of migraine and those who suffered from migraine with or without aura or who had a past history of migraine. The lack of association between migraine and cognitive decline remained true even when stratifying results by migraine aura status and past history of migraine. Furthermore, there was no significant difference in risk of substantial cognitive decline, defined as the worst 10% of the distribution of decline in cognitive abilities, between women who suffered from or had a history of migraine and those who had no history of migraine. The study did find that the subgroup of women with migraine with aura who had a history of cardiovascular disease had a greater rate of cognitive decline compared with those with migraine with aura without cardiovascular disease. Overall, results from the study suggest that among female patients migraine does not result in impairment of brain function and may not have long term effects on cognitive function.
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