Migraine with aura is a known risk factor for cardiovascular disease, and now research indicates that the disorder increases the risk of all types of stroke.

Previously, migraine with aura had been linked to an increased risk of ischemic stroke with only some evidence that it was linked to hemorrhagic stroke.

Tobias Kurth, MD, of the Brigham and Women’s University in Boston and INSERM in Paris, France, led a study of nearly 28,000 women who did not have cardiovascular disease and were participating in the Women’s Health Study. More than 5,000 women reported migraine, with 40% of those reporting migraine with aura. During the 15-year follow-up period, migraine with aura was a strong indicator of total, ischemic and hemorrhagic stroke. The overall incidence rates of stroke per 1,000 women per year were 1.2 for total stroke, 1.0 for ischemic stroke, and 0.2 for hemorrhagic stroke.

“A history of migraine with aura should be considered an important risk marker for strokes of any kind,” Dr. Kurth said.

He noted that migraine with aura appears to be as strong a risk factor for stroke as high blood pressure, obesity, and smoking.

It is not clear yet why the correlation between stroke and migraine with aura exists, but the authors believe it is likely complex and could include genetics, cerebrovascular function, and other risk factors.

Dr. Kurth noted this study does not need to be bad news for migraineurs and that the findings could be helpful to patients. With this information, patients can talk with their health care professionals about how to reduce their own risk of stroke.

This study has not yet been published and was presented last month at the International  Headache Congress in Boston.  Results of studies that have not yet been published are considered preliminary.