Could Migraines and Heart Disease Be in Your Genes?

July 22, 2015

shutterstock_135683396From Parkinson’s disease to obesity there is a long list of conditions linked to migraines. In recent years, study after study has shown that heart disease (a.k.a. coronary artery disease) is also on that list, especially for people who experience migraine with aura (sensations that precede the actual headache, such as flashes of light). Yet new research has delved a step deeper, finding that the increased risk of heart disease among migraine sufferers does not appear to be associated with genetics.

The study was published in the first edition of Neurology Genetics, an online, peer-reviewed journal free to the public. Lead author, Aarno Palotie, MD, of the Broad Institute of MIT and Harvard explained that he and his team searched for gene variants shared between migraine with aura and heart disease, but came up empty, aside from a few genetic variations that actually protected people from heart disease. This finding surprised the researchers since evidence showed that people with migraine with aura were more likely to have heart disease than migraineurs who did not experience aura.

“In other words, people with migraine without aura seem to have a lower load of genetic factors increasing the risk of heart disease,” wrote Anne Ducros, MD, PhD, of the University of Montpellier in Montpellier, France, in the editorial accompanying the study. “We now need to understand why people with migraine who are born with a protective or neutral genetic risk for heart disease end up with an increased risk for heart problems.”

To come to this conclusion, researchers looked for overlaps between data from nearly 19,981 people with migraines and 56,667 without migraine, plus another genetic analysis on 21,076 cases of heart disease and 63,014 of those who did not have heart disease.

Ducros also mentioned that nongenetic factors might have a part in the link. “For example, migraine has been associated with obesity, avoidance of exercise, smoking and depression, all of which increase the risk of heart disease,” she said.

Even if you are more at risk for heart disease due to your migraine condition, the good news is that you do not have to suffer from migraine symptoms forever. Migraine Treatment Centers of America is dedicated to helping you find the best solution to become a happier, healthier you.

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