Link Between Migraines, Strokes, Heart Attacks

Written by AnaLise on February 25, 2009 – 8:29 pm -

Researchers have examined whether a gene variant may affect the link between migraine and stroke or heart attacks. The study is published in Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology.

25,000 women who answered a questionnaire about their history of migraines and migraines with aura participated in the study. Aura is usually described as visual disturbances, such as flashing lights or geometric patterns. The women were tested for a genetic variant called the angiotensin-converting enzyme (ACE) D/I polymorphism.

A total of 4,577 women reported a history of migraine and of those, 1,275 had migraine with aura. Twelve years after the start of the study, 625 strokes and heart attacks were reported.

There was no link found between the gene variant and migraine, migraine with aura, stroke or heart attacks. However, women who had migraine with aura and also were carriers of certain genotypes, called the DD and the DI genotypes, had double the risk of stroke and heart attacks. In contrast, women who had migraine with aura and were carriers of a third genotype, called the II genotype, were not at increased risk. The authors add the caution that this relationship was identified with very little information and must be tested in other studies to determine if it is real.

“The relationship among this gene variant, migraine, stroke and heart disease is extremely complex and has been the focus of numerous studies, and the results have been controversial,” according to study author Markus Schurks, MD, MSc, with the Division of Preventive Medicine at Brigham and Women’s Hospital in Boston. “Getting to the bottom of whether there is a connection and why may help to develop ways to prevent issues like stroke and heart disease, which are leading causes of death in the United States.”

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Do Migraines Have an Impact on Work?

Written by AnaLise on January 29, 2009 – 7:46 am -

There has been a great deal of controversy regarding migraines and work. Everyone from the Department of Labor to individual employers has an idea about how much time migraines cause employees to take off work and how much money is lost each year because of these debilitating headaches.

In a survey of large employers released by the non-profit Midwest Business Group on Health, 91 percent of respondents recognize that migraine headaches impact productivity. Most of these employers also stated that they have not gauged how much money is lost because of absences from work due to migraines and they don’t know how well their health plans are managing migraines for their employees who have to deal with them.

The National Headache Foundation (NHF) has come up with some figures estimating that U.S. industry loses $50 billion per year due to absenteeism, lost productivity and medical expenses caused by migraine headaches, especially chronic ones.

. “Migraine is a serious, neurological, chronic condition that non-sufferers often view as only stress-related and easily treated. The reality is that it results in lost productivity and causes significant disruptions to migraine sufferers’ work and personal lives, according to Larry Boress, MBGH President and CEO.

According to the NHF, nearly 30 million Americans — or one in eight workers — suffer from migraine, which is often accompanied by a variety of symptoms, including sharp throbbing pain on one or both sides of the head, nausea or vomiting, visual disturbances and sensitivity to noise and light. With the help of a health care provider, migraine headaches can be effectively managed and patients can identify and alleviate their symptoms with an appropriate treatment regimen.

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Preventing or Relieving Migraines – Which?

Written by AnaLise on October 2, 2008 – 2:51 pm -

This is a question that is asked repeatedly by doctors, health professionals and migraine sufferers.  There are ways to help alleviate symptoms once a migraine is coming on or has started.  Most migraine sufferers can feel a migraine coming on.  They often have what is called migraine with aura, which includes symptoms such as seeing spots or stars, lightheadedness, flashing lights and even temporary blindness.

Migraines can be caused by a number of things including lack of sleep, overexposure to light, lack of food/hunger, hormone issues, stress and/or anxiety.  Sometimes these triggers can be eliminated and at other times the migraines remain. 

If the migraines are triggered by foods such as caffeine, chocolate, nuts or other substances, it is important to eliminate them, however, in some instances, such as eliminating caffeine, it should be eliminated gradually.  If you are used to drinking several cups of coffee or several cola sodas per day, eliminating them all at once could cause more headaches and more severe headaches.  Doing so a little at a time, for instance drinking one less caffeine drink per day for a week, then two less, for the next week, and so on, until you are no longer using caffeine is a better way to eliminate it as a trigger.

Taking medications can help control migraines once they have begun or when you feel them coming on.  There are various medications available that work well on migraines, depending on the person who is taking them.  Other treatment such as biofeedback, stress relaxation techniques and other therapies can also help.

On the other end of the spectrum, prevention of migraines is the other viable option.  This can be done especially when there are hormonal issues that create migraines when they fluctuate.  If migraines occur in conjunction with menstrual cycles, they usually diminish or disappear once the menstrual cycle ceases. 

As researchers are learning more about the genetics and biology of migraines, there will be more ways to help provide relief or prevent them altogether.  In addition, there are already medications available that can help prevent and control migraines. 

It is simply a choice that you and your doctor or health professional can make together when determining whether it will be possible to prevent your migraines – which will always be the best choice – or simply try to control them and relieve a migraine once you have one.

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Migraine Prevention That Causes Weight Loss

Written by AnaLise on September 25, 2008 – 6:40 am -

Migraine headaches are bad enough without some of the medication and treatment that people have to undergo.  Migraines are debilitating and often create pounding in the head, extreme nausea and sensitivity to light, among other symptoms. 


Too often, people who suffer from migraines become experiments for medical practitioners who are trying to figure out what medications might be the best.  Some medications used to treat migraine headaches include Depakote (also used for bi-polar disease), as well as tricyclic anti-depressants such as Elavil (amitriptyline) and Pamelor (nortriptyline). 


These medications often help people get their migraines under control, however, as with many medications, there are side effects.  One of the most difficult side-effects for people with migraines to deal with is weight gain.  So, in addition to the migraines themselves and the chance that the medication may or may not work, you have the opportunity to gain an average of 40 or maybe 50 pounds if you take some of these medications on a regular basis to control the migraines.


There is one saving grace however.  There is one medication that not only works well, but also will help you lose weight, rather than gain it.  The drug Topamax (topiramate), which is approved and used for epilepsy, can reduce the number of migraines a person has and also reduce their severity. 


Nearly 470 patients – mostly women – in Nashville, Tennessee, who suffered from chronic migraine headaches, were studied for over 6 months, saw their migraines drop from an average of 6 per month to an average of 3.5 migraines per month.  The women who took Topamax for their migraines lost about 3% to 4% of their body weight – one wonderful side effect of the medication for migraines. 


If you suffer from migraines and are still looking for medication that can help as well as possibly help you lose weight, ask about topiramate and see what happens.  

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Finally, Some Accurate Migraine Information

Written by AnaLise on September 18, 2008 – 5:43 pm -

Migraine sufferers get it.  Some doctors and health professionals get it, too.  And, there are some employers who get it.  They understand that migraine headaches are not just an excuse not to go to work, take care of business, clean the house, or do anything and everything else a migraine sufferer has to do.

Those of us who have suffered from migraines understand the meaning of pain.  In fact, some women have reported that their migraine headaches are worse than the pain of childbirth.  I can attest to the fact that this is true.  Natural childbirth without medication was uncomfortable but not unbearable.  Migraine headaches are overwhelming – even with pain medication and trips to the emergency room.

There is hope for migraine sufferers, and some of it is located within the pages of a newly released book entitled, “The Migraine Brain” by Carolyn Bernstein, M.D.  Dr. Bernstein is a top notch neurologist who has been on the Harvard Medical School faculty for seventeen years.  Her partner in research and writing, Elaine McArdle has helped compile the information included in “The Migraine Brain.”

Dr. Bernstein was studying to become a neurologist when she started experiencing migraines.  During the course of her migraine episodes, she began to turn her attention to causes and remedies and focus on these aspects while she was earning her doctorate.  Her findings from those days through her years as part of the Harvard Medical School faculty form the basis for the book.

In addition to writing the book, Dr. Bernstein has established the Women’s Headache Center at the Cambridge Health Alliance in Cambridge, Massachusetts.  This is one of the first clinics of this type in the world.  It was designed by women who suffer from migraines and offers treatment through two staff neurologists, a psychiatrist, support groups and other services.

Since the first day that the clinic opened, Dr. Bernstein has been receiving calls and visits from people throughout the country and around the world in search of relief.

“The Migraine Brain” is a must for people who suffer from migraines – especially women.  The information presented in the book has been tried and tested by Dr. Bernstein over nearly two decades.  It brings accurate information and hope to individuals who suffer from migraines and to the professionals who treat them.


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Foods to Avoid and Foods to Use for Migraines

Written by AnaLise on July 10, 2008 – 9:43 pm -

If you suffer from migraines like over 20 million other people in the U.S., you probably have heard many tales – some true and some not – about what foods to avoid so you don’t trigger migraines and possibly a few foods to keep close by in case you get a migraine.  It depends upon the individual, of course, but there can be properties in many foods that actually do create migraines or do help ease them.  No foods have actually been proven to do either, however, there are enough people who suffer from migraines that have talked about the same or similar foods that there may be a link, and it is probably worth it to try them.

According to Keri Glassman who appeared on The Early Show Tuesday, there are several migraine contributors or triggers, such as Tyramine, an amino acid found in aged cheese, wine, chocolate, smoked, pickled and cured meats, eggplant, avocado, raspberries and bananas, as well as some other fruits and vegetables. 

Another big group of contributors includes nitrites, food additives and MSG.  These are often found in Chinese Food, cheese powders, Campbell’s soup, potato chips, frozen meals and some salad dressings.  It is important to check ingredients in these to see if any of these additives are used.  MSG is also packaged under the name of Accent, which comes in a red and white salt-shaker shaped carton.

Other contributors include aspartame (artificial sweetener) which has been shown to make neurons fire spasmodically.  Another strong contributor is alcohol which affects different individuals in different ways. Some people have difficulties with red wine because of the sulfites in it, others cannot drink hard liquor such as tequila or gin without triggering a migraine.

As for migraine relievers, the possibilities are ginger, Omega 3s from fish or nuts, Vitamin B2/Riboflavin, Magnesium and Caffeine.  Migraine preventatives are said to be exercise, sleep, eating and not skipping meals and keeping a migraine diary that will help you determine what you did, ate or drank right before a migraine and see if there is a pattern you need to eliminate.

For those who do not wish to use medications or various treatments, it might be a good idea to give these things a try.  Though not proven, some people with migraine histories swear by these, and you might just find a natural remedy to decrease or eliminate your migraines, just as they have.

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