Is there a link between cardiovascular disease and migraine? Today’s issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) contains a report on a study that investigated the subject. The conclusion was yes. Those women (no men in this study, sorry) suffering from migraine with aura have a 2.15x better chance of having an "event" related to cardiovascular disease (CVD). In fact, according to researchers, there was an increased risk of "major CVD, myocardial infarction, ischemic stroke, and death due to ischemic CVD, as well as with coronary revascularization and angina".
This doesn’t mean that everyone with migraine with aura (migraine without aura does not seem to come with increased risk of CVD) is going to have heart disease. For every 10,000 women, this means only 18 more "major CVD events" per year. Still, this means that doctors should include migraine with aura as a risk factor. If there are a lot of reasons why a specific woman may be at risk, this is something else to keep an eye on. We also need more studies to find out exactly why this is happening. Researchers believe that increased levels of homocysteine in the body of migraineurs may be involved. Homocysteine is an amino acid produced by the body.
But there’s a story behind this story. JAMA is upset because the researchers didn’t disclose ties with makers of treatments for migraines or heart-related problems. All six of the researchers had received funding from or done consulting for such organizations. They claimed that they didn’t report on the ties because they didn’t feel it was relevant to the study. After all, they weren’t specifically recommending a migraine or heart drug. JAMA isn’t buying the excuse.
Who’s right and who’s wrong? Well, the average migraineur may wonder what all the fuss is about. After all, by the time the research reaches the general public, we generally aren’t told who has ties with who. And the web of funding and research is so complicated, at times it seems like nobody’s motives are clear. This shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone.
I wouldn’t write off any study based on who’s funding it. However, this debate reminds us to be cautious of all research, to keep investigating. And it exposes a problem that goes far beyond this one issue – the problems of disclosure and funding. These issues will take time to solve.
Anyway, back to the study. These are well known researchers and this appears to be a carefully done study that further documents what other studies have shown. Migraine and CVD links will continue to be documented. I hope the research continues.
Read more about the concerns of JAMA and the researchers here. For more depth on the research, check out Migraine With Aura Linked To Cardiovascular Disease from Teri Robert.