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Migraine and Stroke

Strokes and migraines share many of the same symptoms and are sometimes mistaken for each other. But does a migraine cause a stroke or vice versa? Research doesn't show that.

Studies do show that if you get a lot of migraines, you may have a higher chance of having a stroke later in life. But the risk is small.

The Connections

If you suddenly have a severe headache, loss of vision in one eye, and muscle weakness on one side of the body, get medical attention right away. It could be a migraine, but it could be a stroke. A doctor should see you to say for sure.

People who get migraines have a greater chance of having a stroke caused by a blood clot.

Women are more likely than men to have migraines because of hormones.

Some people who get migraines know their next one is coming because they see a warning, or aura, like flashing lights. Those who have auras with their migraines have a greater risk of stroke than those who don’t have auras, research shows.

That chance is even higher if:

•    You smoke.
•    You take birth control pills.
•    You're younger than 45.

If you get frequent migraines of any sort, see a neurologist. That’s a doctor who takes care of problems in the brain. Some medications can help prevent migraines and make them not as painful or happen less often.

Lower Your Risk of Stroke

Lifestyle changes can help lower your chances of having a stroke.

•    If you take the pill, you may want to talk to your doctor about the best form of birth control for you.
•    If you smoke, quit.
•    Control your blood pressure. High blood pressure is the main reason people have strokes. Changing your diet and exercise plan may help lower blood pressure, but you may also need medication. Talk to your doctor.
•    Watch your cholesterol levels.
•    Control your blood sugar.
•    Keep your weight in a healthy range.