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Cephalalgia. 2013 Mar;33(4):228-35. doi: 10.1177/0333102412466966. Epub 2012 Nov 12.

Migraine is not associated with enhanced atherosclerosis.

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  • 1Department of Neurology, Leiden University Medical Centre, The Netherlands.



Migraine, in particular with aura, has been associated with an increased risk for ischemic stroke and coronary heart disease. The underlying mechanism is unknown. In a cross-sectional case control study we investigated whether an enhanced risk of atherosclerosis in migraineurs explains this increased cardiovascular risk.


Subjects were participants from the population-based Erasmus Rucphen Family study. Atherosclerosis was assessed in 360 migraineurs (209 without aura and 151 with aura) and 617 subjects without migraine or severe headache. Atherosclerosis was quantified by intima media thickness, pulse wave velocity and ankle-brachial index.


Migraineurs, especially with aura, were found more likely to smoke, have diabetes or a modestly decreased HDL-cholesterol. No differences were found for the atherosclerosis parameters.


In this large population-based study, migraineurs have no increased risk of atherosclerosis. Therefore, enhanced atherosclerosis is an unlikely explanation for the increased cardiovascular risk seen in migraineurs.

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