Sunday, March 15, 2009

Study Links Genotypes to Increased Risk of Heart Attack in Migraine Sufferers

Scientists have long recognized the link between those who suffer migraines and an increased risk of heart attack and stroke, but have yet to determine how the two conditions are linked.

A recent Harvard study, which was funded by the National Institutes of Health and published in the February 17 issue of Neurology, sought to answer this question by exploring a possible link between the presence of the ACE D/I gene variant in those with migraines and an increase in heart attack and stroke. The study involved 25,000 participants, all white women who had migraines (with or without aura) currently or in the past. However, after about twelve years of collecting data it was determined that the ACE D/I genetic variant alone could not be linked to an increase in heart attacks and stroke in participants.

The research did reveal one important clue to this mystery: Women who suffered from migraines, had the ACE DD or DI genotype and suffered from auras were twice as likely to develop cardiovascular disease. According to the authors of the study, this means that the presence of the ACE DD or DI genotype could one day be used as a marker for an increased risk of heart attack and stroke in migraine patients. More research will be needed to determine if the ACE DD/DI gene variant acts alone or in concert with other variants.

At least the link between heart disease and migraines appears to be solid. For one thing, both cardiovascular disease and migraines respond to treatment with ACE inhibitor medications that block the angiotensin-converting enzyme responsible for causing blood pressure to rise. Another recent study performed by Italian researchers (results were published in February in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology) found that severe migraines could be helped by performing surgery to close a small opening between the right and left chambers of the heart.

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