A study published in the April online issue of Neurology, the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, found a link between women who suffer from migraines before menopause and women who are at increased risk of developing high blood pressure after menopause.
According to Gianluca Severi, PhD, researcher at the French National Institute of Health and Medical Research in Paris and lead author of the study, women have more migraines than men and experience the most migraines in the years before menopause. After menopause, the incidence of high blood pressure increases. Severi and his team designed the study to determine whether there is a link between migraines before menopause and high blood pressure after menopause. They found that indeed there is a link.
The longitudinal study followed 56,202 French women—all of whom had neither high blood pressure nor cardiovascular disease at the time of menopause—for up to 20 years (enrollment began in 1990). The women completed comprehensive health surveys every 2-3 years.
At the start of the study, 83% of these women experienced no migraines and 17% had them. This last number increased to 20% by the end of the study.
As for high blood pressure, among those who had it, 75% of these women did not suffer from migraines while 25% did. This means that high blood pressure affected women who suffered from migraines at a higher rate than women without migraines.
Women with migraines also developed high blood pressure on average 2 years earlier than women without migraines. After adjusting for factors like body mass index (BMI), physical activity levels, migraine medication usage and family history of cardiovascular disease, the study determined that women with a history of migraines have a 29% increased risk of developing high blood pressure after menopause.
The study does not suggest a causative relationship between migraines and high blood pressure after menopause; only a correlation. According to Severi: "There are multiple ways in which migraine may be linked to high blood pressure. People with migraine have been shown to have early signs of arterial stiffness. Stiffer, smaller vessels are not as capable of accommodating blood flow, resulting in pressure increases. It is also possible that associations could be due to genetics… Doctors may want to consider women with a history of migraine at a higher risk of high blood pressure."