Gene exposes women with migraine to increased cardiac risk

July 31st, 2008 - 1:13 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, July 31 (IANS) Women with migraine seem to be at a greater risk of heart disease and stroke if they possess a certain gene, according to a new study. Researchers followed 25,001 white women for the occurrence of heart attacks and ischemic stroke. About 18 percent had a history of migraine while 40 percent with active migraine reported migraine with aura.

Migraine with aura can be described as neurological symptoms that last about 30 minutes and most often lead to visual disturbances. They were also tested for a certain gene variant in the methyleneterahydrofolate reductase gene.

During a 12-year follow-up period, 625 cardiovascular disease events were reported. The study found that women who had both the gene variant and migraine with aura had more than three times the risk of cardiovascular disease, which was driven by four times the risk for stroke compared with women who did not have the gene variant and no history of migraine. An estimated 11 percent carried the gene variant.

“This gene by itself does not appear to increase the risk for overall and for specific cardiovascular disease, but rather this research suggests a possible connection between the gene variant and migraine with aura,” said co-author Tobias Kurth of Harvard Medical School in Boston.

“While it is too early to start testing young women with migraine with aura for this gene variant, more focussed research will help us understand these complex links and will help us to potentially develop preventative strategies,” said Kurth.

“Doctors should try to reduce heart disease risk factors and advise young women who experience migraine with aura not to smoke and to consider birth control pill alternatives as these increase the risk of ischemic vascular problems.”

These findings were published on Wednesday’s online issue of Neurology.

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