Smokers with migraine have increased risk of stroke

By John Murphy, MDLinx
Published January 5, 2016

Key Takeaways

Migraine is associated with a three-fold increased risk of stroke among active smokers, but not among nonsmokers, according to a recent study published online in the journal Neurology.

In this study, researchers at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami, FL set out to find any possible link between migraine and stroke. They assessed 1,292 participants (average age of 68) from the Northern Manhattan Study, a population-based cohort study of stroke incidence. Among the participants, 262 patients (20%) had migraine and 75 (6%) had migraine with aura.

Researchers recorded a total of 294 strokes, heart attacks, and deaths during an average of 11 years of follow-up. The study found no association between migraine with or without aura and the risk of either stroke or heart attacks.

Among smokers, though, migraine was associated with a three-fold increased risk of stroke. For nonsmokers, migraine was not associated with a stroke risk.

“While this investigation of migraine and vascular events in older people found that only smokers with migraine have an increased risk of stroke, earlier studies have shown that women younger than 45 who have migraine with aura are also at an increased risk of stroke, whether or not they smoke,” said study author Teshamae Monteith, MD, assistant professor of Clinical Neurology and director of the Headache Program, General Neurology, at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami. “Our findings may provide more evidence as to why quitting smoking is important for people who experience migraine.”

Dr. Monteith added, “Statistically, we could not rule out the possibility that the relationship between migraine and stroke in smokers was due to chance; however, we believe the association is consistent with other studies.”

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