Senior smokers with migraine have increased stroke risk

by Bruce Sylvester: Seniors with migraines who smoke appear to be at an increased risk of stroke, researchers reported on July 22, 2015 in Neurology.

“While this investigation of migraine and vascular events in older people found that only smokers with migraine have an increased risk of stroke, earlier studies have shown that women younger than 45 who have migraine with aura are also at an increased risk of stroke, whether or not they smoke,” said author Teshamae Monteith, MD, Assistant Professor of Clinical Neurology and Director of the Headache Program at the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine in Miami, Florida. “Our findings may provide more evidence as to why quitting smoking is important for people who experience migraine.”

The investigators evaluated data from subjects in the Northern Manhattan Study (NOMAS), a research study of stroke and stroke risk factors in the Northern Manhattan (New York City) community conducted at the Neurological Institute of Columbia University,
Division of Stroke and Critical Care.

They evaluated data on 1,292 subjects, with an average age of 68, who had reported migraine. They found that 187 subjects had migraine without aura and 75 had migraine with aura.

They tracked the subjects for an average of 11 years to determine who had a heart attack or stroke.

Over the course of the study, 294 strokes, heart attacks and deaths took place.

The investigators found no association between migraine with or without aura and the risk of either stroke or heart attacks. But among smokers, migraine associated with a 3-fold increased risk of stroke. Among non-smokers, migraine was not associated with a stroke risk.

“Statistically, we could not rule out the possibility that the relationship between migraine and stroke in smokers was due to chance, however, we believe the association is consistent with other studies,” Monteith said.