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Women With Migraine More Likely to Develop Hypertension

Jaime Rosenberg
Women with a past history of migraine have a 15% higher risk of developing hypertension than those with no history of migraine, according to study findings published in Cephalalgia.
Women who have migraines have a higher risk of developing hypertension, according to study findings published in Cephalalgia.1

Links between migraine and vascular issues, such as migraine with aura and increased stroke risk, have been assessed for decades. However, the association between migraine and hypertension has been inconclusive.

“Better understanding whether migraineurs are at increased risk for developing hypertension is important, as it may inform clinical management as well as elucidate possible strategies to prevent hypertension and the potential influence of this association in the development of coronary disease in patients with migraine,” according to the authors of the study.

The researchers conducted a prospective study of 29,040 women with no hypertension at baseline. Women were categorized as having active migraine with aura, active migraine without aura, a past history of migraine, or no history of migraine. Incident hypertension was defined as a new physician diagnosis or newly self-reported systolic or diastolic blood pressure of 140 mmHg and higher or 90 mmHg and higher, respectively.

Among the participants, 23,819 (82%) reported no history of migraine and 5221 (18%) reported any history of migraine. Of the women who reported history of migraine, 1516 (29%) reported migraine with aura, 2294 (43.9%) reported migraine without aura, and 1411 (27%) reported a past history of migraine.

During a mean follow-up of 12.2 years, there were a total of 15,176 incident hypertension events, 2868 of which occurred among those with any history of migraine. Women with a past history of migraine had a 15% higher risk of developing hypertension than those with no history of migraine.

Women who experienced migraine without aura had the highest risk of developing hypertension, with a 21% increased risk when compared to women with no history of migraine, while women who experienced migraine with aura had a 9% increased risk. Women who had a migraine frequency of at least weekly had a 30% increased risk when compared to those with fewer than 6 migraines per year.

According to the researchers, the link between migraine and incident hypertension could have 2 potential causes: shared factors that lead to both migraine and hypertension, but at different time points, may exist; and aspects or consequences of migraine pathophysiology may increase the propensity for developing hypertension.

“Despite the small to moderate increase in the relative risk of developing hypertension, our results have clinical implications given the high prevalence of migraine at the population level,” concluded the authors. “Moreover, as patients with migraine are at risk of developing cardiovascular disease, detection of any additional vascular risk factor will assist in implementing a more individualized therapeutic regimen.”

Of the 38 million people in the United States who experience migraines, 75% are women, a fact that may be attributable to the way fluctuations in estrogen levels affect cells in the brain.

Reference

1. Rist P, Winter A, Buring J, et al. Migraine and the risk of incident hypertension among women. [Published online February 1, 2018]. Cephalalgia. doi: 10.1177/0333102418756865.

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