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"Aura" refers to visual warnings migraine sufferers experience 10 to 30 minutes before a migraine, and can include seeing bright lights or wavy lines, or temporary vision loss.
Researchers examined data on 28,000 women older than 45 who had participated in the Women's Health Study, and found that those who had migraines with "aura" were twice as likely to have heart disease -- such as heart attack or angina -- and also twice as likely to have an ischemic stroke, compared to women with "aura"-free migraines or no migraines. While scientists had previously suspected that migraines were linked to heart disease and stroke risks, they are unsure of why the link exists.
The researchers say they need to conduct further studies to determine if men and younger women with aura migraines also run a higher risk of stroke and heart disease. More research is also needed to find out how to lower the risks for aura migraine sufferers, as well as whether or not treating the migraine itself can lower risks.
Most likely, the migraines and heart disease share a common cause. The "aura" of the migraines is simply a symptom of the underlying cause, which is probably related to poor cardiovascular health and poor nutritional habits.
Migraines affect roughly one in six women and one in 15 men, and range in severity from severe headache alone to headache with nausea, noise sensitivity, photosensitivity and vomiting.
The study was published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.