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Genetic Link Discovered for Migraine and Stroke

Researchers and health professionals have known for some time that migraine and stroke are linked, and now new research indicates that both disorders share a genetic basis.

Study authors, led by Rainer Malik, PhD, of the University Hospital of Bordeaux, France, reviewed genomic data from more than 23,285 migraineurs and 94,425 controls, and 12,389 people who had had an ischemic stroke and 62,004 controls. Writing in the journal Neurology, the researchers say they found substantial genetic overlap between migraine and ischemic stroke. Overall, migraine without aura shared more genetic material with ischemic stroke than migraine with aura. The strongest overlap existed between migraine without aura and large artery stroke—an ischemic stroke that occurs when a large artery to the brain is blocked, and between migraine without aura and cardioembolic stroke—which occurs when a blood clot forms in the heart and travels to the brain.

Migraineurs need not be alarmed by the latest findings, but are encouraged to speak with their health care professionals about any concerns they may have. Mitchell Elkind, MD, Professor of Neurology and Epidemiology at Columbia University School of Medicine in New York, provided his perspective to NHF members.

“The discovery of genetic links between migraine and stroke may someday provide better ways to prevent stroke in patients with migraine. For now, ensuring a low blood pressure, avoiding smoking, and exercising regularly are great ways to lower stroke risk,” he said.

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