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Migraine and Stroke, Heart Disease: Understanding the Risks

Learning that research has found connections between migraine and stroke and heart disease can be chilling. Fortunately, the news is not as bad as it might first appear. I spoke with headache specialist Gretchen Tietjen, M.D., about an article on the connection between migraine and an increased risk of stroke and cardiovascular disease that she wrote for the American Migraine Foundation. “From a patient’s perspective, this information is frightening,” I told her (because I have no poker face, even on the telephone). Dr. Tietjen soothed my worries tremendously by putting the information into perspective.

“It can be very scary when you read things like this,” Dr. Tietjen said. “Study after study shows this little bit of increase.” However, the risk is very small. The most important takeaway is that patients should keep migraine in mind as part of their overall risk for stroke and heart disease. If you have migraine and are at increased risk of stroke or heart disease, it’s extra important to be aware of and manage those risk factors.

Migraine Increases the Risk of Stroke and Cardiovascular Diesease (But Only a Little Bit)

Yes, migraine does increase the risk of stroke, particularly for women who have migraine with aura. But the risk is very, very small. Less than 1% of all strokes in women have any connection to migraine. And the presence of a connection is not proof of a causal relationship—that is, just because the two are linked doesn’t mean that migraine causes stroke.

The article reports that a recent study found “that migraine increases the risk of stroke, coronary events, and related death by about 50%.” At first glance, that sounds terrifying, but Dr. Tietjen’s clarification was soothing. She said, “This sounds worrisome but to put this in perspective only 1% of the total population in the study had a cardiovascular event over the 20 years of follow-up. The take home message is that having migraine does not mean you will have heart disease or a stroke, only that it appears to slightly increase the risk.”

Risk Factors For Stroke and Heart Disease

Dr. Tietjen highlighted risk factors like smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol, and diabetes. She said that in people with migraine, these factors have an additive effect—the combination of more than one risk factor is worse than any one by itself. If you have any of these risk factors in addition to migraine, quitting smoking, lowering your blood pressure and/or cholesterol, or getting your diabetes under control could lower your risk of heart disease substantially. Smoking is the risk factor that stands out the most to Dr. Tietjen. Studies of migraine and smoking have shown that the combination of the two increases your stroke and heart disease risk more than either one on it’s own.

Learn More About Migraine, Stroke and Heart Disease

Dr. Tietjen’s article, Migraine, Stroke and Heart Disease has in-depth information on who is at increased risk of stroke, differentiating between symptoms of migraine and stroke, the physiological links between migraine and stroke, and ways to lower your risk. As you read the article, keep in mind that the absolute risk is small and that you can modify your risk factors for stroke and heart disease. And make a list of any questions you may have so you can ask your doctor at your next appointment.

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Migraine Moments Short Film Contest

Do you want to share your perspective on migraine with health care providers (including headache specialists), research scientists, and patient advocates? Migraine Moments, the American Migraine Foundation’s short film competition, is your chance to do just that. According to AMF’s website, the goal of the films is to “convey many powerful and complex ideas about migraine and people with migraine—the pain and burden of course, but also the struggles and triumphs in finding relief and help from treatments and doctors, family and friends.”

Entries, which are due by April 1, can be any sort of original video you’d like to create: documentary, music video, animation, simulations, visualizations, fiction, performance art, interpretive dance… whatever feels like the best way for you to convey your experience with migraine. Be as creative as you like, as long as the video is a finished work of your own creation that’s no longer than five minutes. Entries will be judged by members of the American Headache Society’s electronic media committee and board of directors.

The first place winner will receive $2,500 and a trip to San Diego to present their work at the American Headache Society’s meeting on Friday, June 10, 2016. The second place winner will receive $1,000 and the third place prize is $500. Winning entries will also be promoted on social media and AMF’s website.

Check AMF’s website for the Migraine Moments official contest rules and entry form.

Don’t fret if you don’t have time to get your entry together by this year’s deadline. AMF plans to turn this into an annual event.

(Wondering why the winners will be presenting at the American Headache Association’s meeting when the contest is sponsored by the American Migraine Foundation? The two groups are part of the same organization. The American Migraine Foundation is the fundraising branch of the American Headache Society. AMF is the force behind the 36 Million Migraine campaign.)

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American Migraine Foundation’s Blog a Day

The American Migraine Foundation (the group behind the 36 Million Migraine campaign) celebrated Migraine and Headache Awareness Month with daily featured posts from five different migraine bloggers. It was a ton of great information and I was honored to be chosen to participate. The other bloggers who participated were Lisa Jacobson from The Daily Migraine, Sarah Hackley from The Migraine Chronicles, Michelle Tracy from The Migraine Warrior, and Anna Eidt from Brain Storm. (Check out their great blogs!) If you didn’t get a chance to see all the posts, they’re worth a look. Here’s the lineup:

  1. Moms and Dads With Migraine (Lisa)
  2. Early Second Trimester Migraines (Sarah)
  3. Dehydration as Migraine Trigger (me)
  4. Chronic Caregiver (Michelle)
  5. On chronic pain and depression (Anna)
  6. Migraine-15 Steps to Create and Environment Conducive to Wellness (Sharron)
  7. When in Doubt, Nap: 64 Inspirational Quotes from Chronic Pain Sufferers (Lisa)
  8. An Open Letter to My Pre-Migraine Self (Sarah)
  9. Migraine Hangover (aka Postdrome) (me)
  10. A Vanilla Cupcake and a Whisper (Michelle)
  11. Cures (Anna)
  12. Migraine: ‘I am a Person, Not a Diagnosis’ (Sharron)
  13. TMJ and Migraine (Lisa)
  14. Coping With Occipital Neuralgia Without Medication (Sarah)
  15. Sleep, Schedules, and Migraine (me)
  16. Chronically in Love: The V-Day Edition (Michelle)
  17. Migraine ≠ Headache (Anna)
  18. Migraine: What’s Stress ‘Let Down’ Got to Do With It? And Did Someone Say Stress-Management (Sharron)
  19. Heat+Glare+Sun=Migraine (Lisa)
  20. no post today
  21. Managing Your Migraines in the E.R. (Lisa)
  22. I’ve Always Depended on the ‘KID’-ness of Strangers — Talking to Children About Chronic Migraine (Michelle)
  23. On Thriving With Chronic Migraine (Anna)
  24. Effective Use of Medications for Migraine Relief — 5 Ways to Overcome Unmet Needs and Improve Our Treatment Outcomes (Sharron)
  25. Are You a ‘Spoonie’? (Lisa)
  26. 32 Bizarre Migraine Treatments (Lisa)
  27. Sunny Weather = Fewer Migraines? The Everlasting Hunt for Triggers (me)
  28. From Migraine to Mygraine (Michelle)
  29. On Pondering Parenthood With Chronic Pain (Anna)
  30. A Role for Integrative (Complementary) Therapies in Preventing the Progression of Episodic to Chronic Migraine, and Remittance (Sharron)

 

 

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Giving Tuesday: Please Support the 36 Million Migraine Campaign

For Giving Tuesday, please consider donating to the 36 Million Migraine campaign — even $1 donations are extremely valuable. The campaign is to raise money for research, of course, but it’s also about showing lawmakers how many people are affected by migraine. The more people who donate, the more apparent it is that the allocation of research dollars impacts real people whose lives have been altered by migraine.

You can make your donation here. Donations can be designated in honor of a mentor or loved one. You can also donate using American Express reward points. And, if you work for a company that matches donations, you might be able to double your donation. All the details are available on the 36 Million Migraine donation page.

(By making a donation, you will be signed up for a weekly educational email from the American Headache Society. That was a bonus for me, but you can easily unsubscribe if you don’t want to receive it. They’ve never sent me requests for additional donations.)

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Donate to the 36 Million Migraine Campaign to Wish Me a Happy Birthday!

Many of you have expressed a desire to buy me a cup of coffee as a thank you for my work on The Daily Headache. My 37th birthday is coming up and there’s no greater gift I could receive than for The Daily Headache’s readers to further migraine research by donating to the American Migraine Foundation’s 36 Million Migraine campaign.

Whether you can only spare the couple dollars you’d spend on a cup of coffee or your budget will allow for a larger donation, every contribution helps further migraine research. That’s the gist of the campaign — if each of the 36 million Americans who have migraine donated just $1, we’d have $36 million to investigate the causes of and treatment for this life-altering disorder.

36 Million Migraine via The Daily Headache

Of course, not all 36 million migraineurs read The Daily Headache, so I’ve set my birthday fundraising goal at a modest $1,000. Please consider donating whatever you can spare to better the lives of everyone who lives with this poorly understood, debilitating illness.

I’ve set up a 36 Million Migraine via The Daily Headache donation page on Crowdrise so we can see how much The Daily Headache readers contribute toward the goal. If Crowdrise’s $10 minimum donation isn’t in your budget, you can donate through the American Migraine Foundation. I’m using my birthday to drum up support, but it doesn’t matter where you donate or if you mention The Daily Headache or me — it’s all about raising money for migraine research.

P.S. Click on the orange “Optional Processing Fee” text on the Crowdrise donation page if you do not wish to pay an additional amount for processing (or if you wish to pay more in support of Crowdrise!).