Prior research indicates that women with migraine are at an increased risk of cardiovascular disease-related mortality, when compared with women without migraine. However, studies assessing whether migraine directly affects all-cause mortality have provided inconsistent findings. “Because women are 3-4 times more frequently affected by migraine than men, my colleagues and I sought to understand whether this disease puts women at higher risk for long-term consequences, such as all-cause mortality,” explains Jessica L. Rohmann, PhD-candidate. For a study published in The Journal of Headache and Pain, the researchers sought to estimate the effect of non-migraine headache and migraine, as well as migraine subtypes, on all-cause and cause-specific mortality in women.
The research team followed more than 27,000 women with migraine (history of migraine without aura or migraine with aura) or headache for a median of 22.7 years. The team evaluated reported incidence of death and used medical records to determine if the deaths were caused by cardiovascular disease, any cancer, or female-specific cancer causes.
“Our results indicated no differences in all-cause mortality for women suffering from migraine or non-migraine headache compared with individuals without any headache,” notes Rohmann. Additionally, no differences in all-cause mortality among migraine subtypes were observed when compared with women without any headache. Women with migraine and aura had a higher mortality rate due to cardiovascular disease, but were less likely, than other women with migraine, to die of other causes.
“These results should be reassuring for women with migraine, as this disease does not appear to result in an increased risk of all-cause death,” says Rohmann. “Our findings corroborate results from previous studies indicating an increased risk of cardiovascular disease-specific death, specifically those women who reported migraine with aura. Thus, treating physicians should consider the vascular risk profile of women with migraine with aura and, if needed, provide preventive suggestions related to modifiable vascular risk factors.”
Rohmann believes future studies should focus on understanding how migraine pathophysiology might interfere with the vascular system to develop better prevention strategies for women with migraine with aura. Additionally, whether the findings of this study can be extended to men with migraine remains to be seen.
Migraine, headache, and mortality in women: a cohort study