Migraines may be a lot more than a pain in the head... because the latest research shows they may be linked to problems in the rest of your body, too.
A new study finds that people who suffer from migraine headaches have twice the risk of heart attack. And the bad news doesn't end there... the study published in Neurology also found that migraine sufferers have a higher risk for stroke, and are 50 percent more likely to face conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure and high cholesterol levels -- a triple threat that also puts these patients at risk for cardiovascular disease.
The overall risk is still relatively low... but since 29 million Americans suffer from migraines, any increased risk at all will impact large numbers of people.
The researchers used data on 6,102 people with migraines and 5,243 people without them who had filled out questionnaires about their headaches as well as their general health.
Those of you who suffer from these pains probably know there are two kinds: migraines with aura, which come with vision problems like flashing lights, and migraine without aura.
The researchers found both kinds of migraines increased those health risks... but those with aura had an even higher risk of heart attack. While migraines overall doubled the risk of heart attacks, migraines with aura increase the risk threefold.
None of this means treating the migraine will make these other conditions go away. In fact, the researchers believe migraine sufferers should realize that the condition is a threat to their health whether they're suffering from a headache or not... even if they go long periods between episodes.
In any case, one thing you shouldn't do is treat your migraine by gobbling down painkillers. Many of these meds can actually cause headaches -- there's even a name for them: medication overuse headaches, and studies have found that they may be responsible for up to 60 percent of all chronic headaches.
But don't worry your head over what you'll do without those painkillers... because there are safe and natural alternatives that have helped millions of people fight migraines:
- Magnesium: Studies have found that magnesium supplements may reduce the frequency of headaches. Others have had success with magnesium intravenous drips.
- Vitamins: Many people have found a boost from the B vitamins, especially B2, B6, B12 and folic acid (B9). Vitamin E has also been linked to migraine relief.
- Feverfew: You'll find this herbal remedy in almost any vitamin shop or natural foods store. Feverfew won't necessarily give you immediate relief from a migraine -- but studies have found that steady use may reduce the number of headaches over time as well as their severity.
- Acupuncture: This ancient Chinese treatment is effective at fighting off both migraines and tension headaches -- as well as many other forms of pain. As always, talk to your doctor about which of these treatments may be right for you.
And sometimes, treating the migraine can be as simple as avoiding the triggers. Food additives such as aspartame, monosodium glutamate (MSG) and nitrates have been known to cause migraines, and some people are sensitive to caffeine and sugar.
In any case, as you learn to fight your migraines naturally, pay attention to the rest of your health, too... because as the newest study shows, the pain might be in your head -- but the impact could be throughout your body.