Can migraines cause a stroke?
While migraines can’t directly cause a stroke, certain types of migraines can put you at an increased risk. Neurology nurse practitioner Elizabeth Orr explained why.
“It’s migraines with aura that we’re particularly concerned about,” she said. With these kinds of migraines there are symptoms leading up to the bad headache, such as numbness, blurred vision or swirly lines in your vision.
“It’s difficult to pin down why that happens, but we do know that people are twice as likely to have a stroke if they have migraines with aura,” Orr said.
Overall, the risk of stroke remains low, but it is higher than the standard population, especially if you have other risk factors.
What are the risk factors for stroke?
Risk factors can include:
- Age – stroke is more common in people over 50.
- Elevated blood pressure levels.
- Elevated cholesterol levels.
- Heart disease.
- Conditions related to pregnancy such as gestational diabetes or preeclampsia.
- History of clotting disorders such as lupus or sickle cell disorder.
- COVID-19 infection.
“You’re at higher risk of having a stroke from other factors like high blood pressure, high cholesterol and smoking,” Orr said, “but those are things that we can work on modifying.”
If you have migraines with aura, what can you do to prevent a stroke?
If you have migraines with aura, work on getting them under control by figuring out your triggers,” Orr said. “You can’t totally eliminate that risk factor, so focus on things you can change.
The first step could be talking with your primary care provider. Other ways you can prevent a stroke include:
- Quit smoking
- Control high blood pressure
- Eat healthier – more vegetables and less fried food
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