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Older Migraineurs May Experience Silent Brain Injury

Migraine with aura is known to be a risk factor for ischemic stroke – a stroke that occurs when an artery to the brain is blocked. Now research suggests that older migraineurs are more likely to experience symptomless strokes as well.

These strokes, sometimes called “silent strokes,” occur when a blood clot interrupts the flow of blood to the brain. While their symptoms are not apparent, they are a risk factor for future strokes.

In the study led by Teshamae Monteith, MD, assistant professor of clinical neurology at the Miami Miller School of Medicine, people with a history of migraine headaches were twice as likely to experience silent strokes as people who did not have migraines.

Dr. Monteith stressed that migraineurs should not worry excessively about stroke because the chances are low that they will experience one, but they should be mindful of about their health.

“Those with migraine and vascular risk factors may want to pay even greater attention to lifestyle changes that can reduce stroke risk, such as exercising and eating a low-fat diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables,” she said.

The study involved a multi-ethnic group of adults with an average age of 71. Researchers compared magnetic resonance imaging results of 104 people with a history of migraine to 442 participants without. Even after adjusting for other stroke risk factors, they found a doubling of silent brain infarctions in those with migraine.

The researchers state they do not know if preventive treatment for migraine would reduce the risk of stroke, but recommend treatment regardless.

“We still don’t know if treatment for migraines will have an impact on stroke risk reduction,” said Dr. Monteith, “but it may be a good idea to seek treatment from a migraine specialist if your headaches are out of control.”

The study appeared in the journal Stroke.

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