Do Migraines Lead to Cognitive Decline?

While many experience migraines, there are many unanswered questions. One such question researchers are interested is whether or not those who experience migraine headaches are also more likely to experience cognitive decline when compare to those who don’t suffer.

Previous studies have shown that migraines lead to increased risk of stroke and structural brain lesions.

A study that appeared in the British Medical Journal (BMJ) on August 8, 2012 says

“Previous studies on migraines and cognitive decline were small and unable to identify a link between… [migraines and cognitive decline]. Our study was large enough to draw the conclusion that migraines, while painful, are not strongly linked to cognitive decline.”

The researchers looked at data from the Women’s Health Study, a cohort of nearly 40,000 women, 45 years and older. In this study, researchers analyzed data from 6,349 women who provided information about migraine status at baseline and then participated in cognitive testing during follow-up. The women were classified into 4 different groups

  1. No History of Migraine
  2. Migraine with Aura
  3. Migraine without Aura
  4. Past History of Migraine

The women received cognitive testing in two year intervals up to three times. The authors state

“Compared with women with no history of migraine, those who experienced migraine with or without aura did not have significantly different rates of cognitive decline.”

These are interesting results although I am not totally sold. I would like to see a study that compares those without a history of migraine to those with chronic migraine to better assess potential cognitive decline differences. (Note: I haven’t looked carefully at the study to see the severity of migraine amongst those we experience it).

Source: P. M. Rist, J. H. Kang, J. E. Buring, M. M. Glymour, F. Grodstein, T. Kurth. Migraine and cognitive decline among women: prospective cohort study. BMJ, 345, aug08 1: e5027, 2012.

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