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Migraines Associated With Increased Heart Attack Risk: Mitochondria Function Implicated in Both

Migraine headaches affect more than 28 million Americans and impose a significant cost to society in the form of millions of lost work days each year and an annual cost of $17 billion.

Men who have migraine headaches face an increased risk of cardiovascular disease (CVD), in particular myocardial infarction (MI), a report from the Physicians' Health Study suggests.

In the study, researchers examined 20,000 men participating in the Physician’s Health Study and found that men with migraines had a 24% increased risk of major cardiovascular disease events, including a 12% increase in stroke and a 42% increased risk of heart attack.

Following previous research that showed an increased risk of CVD in women who suffered from migraines, especially migraines with aura (visual disturbances), Kurth and team studied data on more than 20,000 men participating in the Physician's Health Study.

In total, 1449 (7%) participants reported suffering from migraines at the start of the study in 1982.

Analysis of major cardiovascular events among the participants over the 15-year monitoring period revealed that the hazard ratio (HR) for a major CVD event among men who suffered from migraines compared with those who did not was 1.24 (p=0.008). Meanwhile, respective HRs for ischemic stroke, MI, coronary revascularization, angina, and ischemic CV death were 1.12, 1.42 (p<0.001), 1.05, 1.15, and 1.07.

Because researchers were unaware of any studies that explain the association of migraines with cardiovascular events, the researchers concluded that "further research is needed to understand why migraine is associated with Cardiovascular Disease before potential preventive strategies can be developed."

However, research has started to find effective ways to help reduce migraine headaches. Because of the association of impaired mitochondrial function resulting in a reduction in energy production in brain tissue, researchers have undertaken studies testing the efficacy of coenzyme Q10 as a migraine treatment. In two studies researchers found [a submicronized, hydrosoluble version of] Coenzyme Q10 helped significantly decrease migraines. A 2003 study found that 500 mg of magnesium helps with migraine symptoms. Both Coenzyme Q10 and magnesium are known for their mitochondrial energy enhancement and thus their heart health benefits.


American Heart Association Scientific Sessions; Chicago, Illinois, USA: 12–15 November 2006

Sandor PS, et al. Efficacy of coenzyme Q10 in migraine prophylaxis: a randomized controlled trial. Neurology 2005;64:713-715.

Key concepts: migraine headache, CVD, cardiovascular disease, mitochondrial function,