Migraine, headache, and the risk of stroke in women: a prospective study

Neurology. 2005 Mar 22;64(6):1020-6. doi: 10.1212/01.WNL.0000154528.21485.3A.


Background: Migraine and headache in general have been associated with subsequent risk of stroke, primarily in retrospective case-control studies. Prospective data evaluating the association between specific headache forms and stroke are sparse.

Methods: A prospective cohort study was conducted among 39,754 US health professionals age 45 and older participating in the Women's Health Study with an average follow-up of 9 years. Incident stroke was self-reported and confirmed by medical record review.

Results: A total of 385 strokes (309 ischemic, 72 hemorrhagic, and 4 undefined) occurred. Compared with nonmigraineurs, participants who reported migraine overall or migraine without aura had no increased risk of any stroke type. Participants who reported migraine with aura had increased adjusted hazards ratios (HRs) of 1.53 (95% CI 1.02 to 2.31) for total stroke and 1.71 (95% CI 1.11 to 2.66) for ischemic stroke but no increased risk for hemorrhagic stroke. Participants with migraine with aura who were <55 years old had a greater increase in risk of total (HR 1.75; 95% CI 1.02 to 3.00) and ischemic (HR 2.25; 95% CI 1.30 to 3.91) stroke. Compared with participants without headache, headache in general and nonmigraine headache were not associated with total, ischemic, or hemorrhagic stroke.

Conclusions: In these prospective data, migraine was not associated with total, ischemic, or hemorrhagic stroke. In subgroup analyses, we found increased risks of total and ischemic stroke for migraineurs with aura. The absolute risk increase was, however, low, with 3.8 additional cases per year per 10,000 women.

Publication types

  • Research Support, N.I.H., Extramural
  • Research Support, U.S. Gov't, P.H.S.

MeSH terms

  • Brain / blood supply
  • Brain / physiopathology
  • Brain Ischemia / epidemiology
  • Causality
  • Cerebral Arteries / physiopathology
  • Cohort Studies
  • Comorbidity
  • Female
  • Health Personnel / statistics & numerical data
  • Humans
  • Incidence
  • Intracranial Hemorrhages / epidemiology
  • Middle Aged
  • Migraine Disorders / epidemiology*
  • Prospective Studies
  • Randomized Controlled Trials as Topic / statistics & numerical data
  • Risk Factors
  • Stroke / epidemiology*
  • United States / epidemiology