Migraine with Aura Shown to be an Important Risk Factor for all Strokes in Women

New Study Presented at International Headache Congress Shows
Increased Risk for Total, Ischemic and Hemorrhagic Stroke

BOSTON, JUNE 26, 2013 – A team of researchers working in France and the U.S. has demonstrated in a large prospective study that women who experience migraine with aura are at greater risk of all types of stroke including ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke as well as all strokes.

Findings are being presented at the International Headache Congress, an international gathering of more than 1,000 migraine and headache specialists meeting here this week.  The study was done at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston, MA and the Institut National de la Santé et de la Recherche Médicale (INSERM) in Bordeaux, France .

Migraine with aura has been consistently linked with increased risk of ischemic stroke and there is also some evidence that it increases risk of hemorrhagic stroke,” said Tobias Kurth, MD, lead author of the study. “In this study we sought to determine the importance of migraine with aura in stroke occurrence relative to other stroke risk factors.”

Migraine with aura is a migraine that’s preceded or accompanied by a variety of sensory warning signs or symptoms, most often of a visual nature such as flashes of light, but also as blind spots or tingling in the hand or face.

Dr. Kurth and team studied 27,860 women, of whom 1,435 had with migraine with aura, who were free of cardiovascular disease at baseline.  The women were part of the Women’s Health Study, a landmark study established by Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School in 1993 to advance knowledge about the prevention of cardiovascular disease, cancer, and other chronic diseases in women.

“We followed women for medical record-confirmed stroke classified by a neurovascular neurologist into major subtypes — ischemic, hemorrhagic, unknown,” he said. “During 15 years of follow-up, 528 total strokes were confirmed, 430 ischemic, 96 hemorrhagic, 2 unknown.”

“For total, ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke, migraine with aura was a strong relative contributor,” he said.

The International Headache Congress, hosted this year by the American Headache Society, draws about 1,000 headache and migraine researchers and treatment specialists from around the world to hear the latest scientific and clinical information.  This year’s theme – “Revolutionizing Headache Care Through Science” – is a four-day program of teaching and scientific presentations.


Some 36 million Americans suffer from migraine, more than have asthma or diabetes combined.  More than six million Americans suffer from chronic migraine, a highly disabling neurological disorder. Migraine can be extremely disabling and costly, accounting for more than $20 billion in direct (e.g. doctor visits, medications) and indirect (e.g. missed work, lost productivity) expenses each year in the United States.


IHS, founded in the United Kingdom in 1982, is the world’s leading membership organization for those with a professional commitment to helping people affected by headache. The purpose is to advance headache science, education, and management, and promote headache awareness worldwide. IHS publishes the international journal Cephalalgia.


The American Headache Society (AHS) is a professional society of health care providers dedicated to the study and treatment of headache and face pain. The Society’s objectives are to promote the exchange of information and ideas concerning the causes and treatments of headache and related painful disorders. Educating physicians, health professionals and the public and encouraging scientific research are the primary functions of this organization. AHS activities include an annual scientific meeting, a comprehensive headache symposium, regional symposia for neurologists and family practice physicians, publication of the journal Headache and sponsorship of the AHS Committee for Headache Education (ACHE).  www.americanheadachesociety.org



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