Migraines and Your Heart Health

Connection between migraines and major health concerns

Suffering from a migraine headache.
JGI/Jamie Grill/Getty Images

If you suffer from migraines with auras, are you also being treated for other medical problems, like high blood pressure or high cholesterol? Did you know that both these medical conditions, along with your migraines, may increase your risk of heart attack and stroke?

Let's explore the potential connections between your migraines and four major health problems that impact your cardiovascular health.

Migraines and Obesity

Obesity puts a person at risk for heart disease, and there is an interesting connection between migraines and obesity — obesity has been identified as one of the many potential culprits for triggering the transformation from an episodic migraine to a chronic migraine. Also, being obese may trigger more frequent and severe migraine attacks than someone who is of a normal weight. 

Migraines and Diabetes

Having diabetes increases your chance of having a heart attack and/or stroke. While the precise link between a migraine and diabetes is still unclear, we do know that people may experience headaches from extreme fluctuations in their blood glucose levels, especially when they are high or low.

Also, in terms of migraines, scientific research tells us that migraineurs may be more likely to have impaired insulin sensitivity (a precursor to diabetes) than people without migraines.

Migraines and Cholesterol

One study in Neurology found that people with migraines auras were more likely to have elevated cholesterol — and high cholesterol levels increase a person's chance of having a heart attack or stroke. So, you may ask, which came first — the migraines or the high cholesterol? Is this a coincidence or is there a link?  

Migraines and High Blood Pressure

The exact link between high blood pressure (also known as hypertension) and headaches is really unclear. That being said, here is what experts do know:

  •  A headache can be a symptom of hypertensive urgency — a medical condition in which the blood pressure gets so high that it can cause organ dysfunction, like kidney failure, stroke, or a heart attack.
  •  Women with migraines are more likely to develop disorders of hypertension, such as pre-eclampsia and gestational hypertension, during pregnancy.
  • Both migraine with aura and hypertension increase a person's risk of stroke.

What Does This Mean for Me?

The exact connection between migraines and your cardiovascular health is likely complex and really unknown at this time, so don't get too bogged down in the details here.

The bottom line here is that your migraines and your cardiovascular health may be more closely related than you think. So maintaining a healthy lifestyle through normal weight maintenance and daily exercise will help your heart, and may even have benefits for your migraines.

Of course, remain smart and sensible and discuss any major changes in your daily routine such as initiating a new exercise regimen, with your doctor first.

Was this page helpful?

Article Sources

Verywell Health uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial policy to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  • Aamodt AH, Stovner LJ, Midthjell K, Hagen K, Zwart JA. Headache prevalence related to diabetes mellitus. The Head-HUNT study. Eur J Neurol. 2007 Jul;14(7):738-44.
  • Allais G., Gabellari I., Borgogno P., De Lorenzo C., Benedetto C. The risks of women with a migraine during pregnancy. 2010; Neurol Sci. 31(Suppl. 1), S59–S61.
  • Bigal ME, Liberman JN, Lipton RB. Obesity and migraine: a population study. Neurology. 2006 Feb 28;66(4):545-50.
  • Bigal ME, Lipton RB. Obesity is a risk factor for transformed migraine but a not chronic tension-type headache. Neurology. 2006;67(2):252-257.
  • Facchinetti F, Allais G, Nappi RE, D’Amico R, Marozio L, Bertozzi L, Ornati A, Benedetto C. Migraine is a risk factor for hypertensive disorders in pregnancy: a prospective cohort study. Cephalalgia. 2009 Mar;29(3):286-92.