LONDON, September 5 /PRNewswire/ -- Doctors need to pay special attention to people with migraine with aura as they could be at increased risk of stroke or heart attack, a London conference heard today (Friday 5 September).

Professor Tobias Kurth, a leading neuroepidemiologist from Harvard Medical School, USA, has found the links between migraine with aura and cardiovascular events are now so strong that GPs need to take them seriously.

Speaking at the European Headache and Migraine Trust International Congress 2008 (EHMTIC), which has attracted 750 specialists in the field, Professor Kurth said recent research shows migraine with aura is associated with an increased risk of stroke, angina and heart attack. Migraine with aura affects around 1.2million people in the UK alone.

People suffering migraine with aura can experience symptoms such as seeing zigzags or spots and feeling numbness. Symptoms occur in adults before the headache, but in children they may be simultaneous.

Kurth said women aged 45 and older who had migraine with aura faced a four-fold increased risk of stroke even if they had a low cardio-vascular risk profile, including low cholesterol levels. Young women who have migraine with aura and smoke are eight times more likely to suffer a stroke compared to young female smokers who don't have migraine with aura.

"We should consider migraine with aura when we look at a person's risk of having a stroke or a heart attack," claimed Professor Kurth. "You may think that a person is at low risk because they don't have high blood pressure or cholesterol, but data suggest that having migraine with aura can increase the risk of cardiovascular events even among apparently healthy individuals with a low cardiovascular risk profile."

"Doctors should try to reduce cardiovascular risk factors and strongly advise young women who experience migraine with aura not to smoke. Additionally, birth control pill alternatives should be discussed," continued Kurth.

Kurth called for further research into migraine with aura and the risks of stroke and heart attack. "We need to know which sub-groups of patients with migraine with aura are at the highest risk. We also need more data on whether the prevention of migraine with aura attacks can actually reduce a person's risk of vascular events."

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