Migraine Update: Visual Auras, Heart Health, & Treatments to Avoid

A recent study published in the medical journal Cephalalgia brings forward some new information on the relationship between migraine events and vascular health.

Several population based studies have already pointed to a connection between vascular risk factors such as smoking, diabetes, and high cholesterol levels and the increased incidence of migraines.

The new Cephalalgia study looked at a link between patients who have migraine with aura and the potential risk of ischemic stroke or heart attack, and concluded that migraine with aura can elevate the risk of these serious cardiovascular events. The “how & why” of increased stroke and heart attack risk in people who report migraine with aura isn’t well understood at this point.

On a related note, the American Academy of Neurology (AAN) has released new recommendations for testing and treatment of migraines and headaches. The new AAN guideline on medications for severe headaches and migraines strongly suggest that opioids and barbiturates should be avoided – frequent use of these medications can actually increase the severity of migraine events.

The second AAN guideline suggests that electroencephalography (EEG) tests are not useful for diagnosing headaches, and are an unnecessary expense. This second recommendation is part of the “Choosing Wisely” initiative, where many professional medical associations have recommended that many tests be stopped as they add little clinical value.