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Young Adults With Migraine May Face Higher Stroke Risk
  • Posted March 27, 2024

Young Adults With Migraine May Face Higher Stroke Risk

Migraines in young adults appear to increase their risk of stroke more than traditional risk factors like high blood pressure, a new study reports.

Results show that migraine is the most important non-traditional risk factor for stroke among adults ages 18 to 34, accounting for 20% of strokes in men and nearly 35% in women.

Overall, non-traditional risk factors were associated with more strokes in young adults than the factors traditionally associated with stroke risk, like high blood pressure or smoking, researchers found.

“Most of our attention has been focused on traditional risk factors,” noted lead researcher Dr. Michelle Leppert. She's an assistant professor of neurology at the University of Colorado School of Medicine in Aurora.

“We should not ignore nontraditional stroke risk factors and only focus on traditional risk factors; both are important to the development of strokes among young people,” she added.

Factors traditionally associated with increased risk of stroke include high blood pressure, elevated cholesterol, type 2 diabetes, smoking, obesity, lack of physical activity, alcoholism and clogged arteries, researchers said.

However, recent data has shown strokes increasing among young adults who don't have those risk factors, researchers said.

To figure out what is driving stroke risk among young adults, researchers used health insurance claims data to compare more than 2,600 stroke victims with more than 7,800 people who hadn't suffered a stroke.

Researchers found that strokes in men and women 18 to 44 were significantly associated with non-traditional risk factors like migraines, blood clotting disorders, kidney failure, autoimmune diseases and cancer.

The association between these non-traditional risk factors was strongest in adults younger than 35, researchers said.

Among 18- to 34-year-olds, non-traditional risk factors accounted for about 31% of strokes in men and 43% in women.

By comparison, the traditional risks accounted for 25% of strokes in men and 33% in women.

“In fact, the younger they are at the time of stroke, the more likely their stroke is due to a nontraditional risk factor,” Leppert said. “We need to better understand the underlying mechanisms of these nontraditional risk factors to develop targeted interventions.”

The contribution of traditional stroke risk factors peaked among adults 35 to 44, accounting for nearly 33% of strokes in men and about 40% in women, researchers said.

They were particularly surprised to find that migraine headaches played a large role in many strokes among the young.

“There have been many studies demonstrating the association between migraines and strokes, but to our knowledge, this study may be the first to demonstrate just how much stroke risk may be attributable to migraines,” Leppert said.

The new study appears in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Quality and Outcomes.

More information

The U.S. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has more about stroke.

SOURCE: American Heart Association, news release, March 26, 2024

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