Why your migraine might be a good thing
Have you ever heard someone say a headache is your friend? Or a fever is your friend? Either way, the point is the discomfort may be a symptom of something more serious, and it alerts you to a problem.
A recent University of Florida study supports that theory. Researchers found that women who experience migraines have more than double the risk of suffering a stroke.
Although it’s not yet clear why this connection may exist, Advocate Trinity Hospital cardiologist Dr. Marlon Everett says the link makes sense, and health care providers should be made aware.
He says spastic blood vessels in the brain are thought to be the cause of migraine headaches, and it’s conceivable the spastic vessels may in some way lead to strokes, the blockage of blood flow in the brain.
“It’s all in your head,” says Dr. Everett, whose specialty is interventional cardiology at Trinity, a designated Stroke Center. “Both migraines and strokes come back to dysfunctional blood vessels in the brain.’’
Previous research has linked migraines, especially those where the patient experiences light sensitivity, with blockages. The University of Florida study tracked more than 900 U.S. women who showed signs of heart disease between 1996 and 1999. The average age of the participants was 58, and the majority (80 percent) were white.
Dr. Everett says the new link should change the conversation between female patients and their physicians.
“Women should tell their doctors if they suffer from headaches. This is important information because it gives us another screen to help determine who is at risk for stroke. We usually look for hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. Now, we have another measure for women.”
Dr. Everett says it’s important for women to manage other risk factors that could lead to cardio events as well. He says it’s important to:
- Maintain blood cholesterol of less than 200 mg/dL.
- Maintain a blood pressure rate of less than 140/90, indicating your heart squeezes and pushes blood through your arteries at a normal pace.
- Maintain healthy blood sugar levels which can be checked with an A1c blood test.
- Not smoke, which is considered a major risk factor for heart disease in men and women.
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