While there is little evidence to support that a stroke is more likely to occur during a migraine, it can be concerning when the symptoms can feel so similar. How do you tell the difference, and should you worry about having stroke? Short answer: yes, but really no more than a person who doesn’t have migraines.
Migraine And Risk For Stroke — Should I Worry?
Studies showed women under 55 years old who experience a migraine with aura were at increased risk for stroke than those who did not experience a migraine with aura. But while the risk is relative, it’s rare — only 8 in 100,000 women who experience auras have risk for a stroke. Without aura, the stats drop to 4 in 100,000.
OK, so how do I tell the difference between a migraine and a stroke?
You’ll hear it everywhere, but it’s true: never gamble with your health. If you aren’t sure, call your doctor, go to the ER or call 911. It’s not worth it to guess incorrectly. With that said, there are differences.
- Strokes are typically sudden. You’re OK one minute and not the next. With migraines, your aura may appear gradually over a few minutes, with a headache climbing to a peak, instead of instantly like a stroke.
- In migraines with aura, you’ll notice your vision is zig-zagging, colorful or floating. In strokes, you may not notice your vision is affected until you’re bumping into doorways. Migraines cause more visual disturbances; strokes typically take vision away.
- Are you suddenly with no warning having the worst headache of your life? Does this migraine just feel different than the others? Was it immediate? Are your symptoms unusual compared with other migraines? Get help if this migraine doesn’t feel like your typical migraine, or if your symptoms are changing significantly.
How do I lower my stroke risk?
Treat your migraines the best you can to decrease their frequency. Use your tool box: medications, consistent routines, healthy lifestyle (including not smoking — a major stroke risk). If you’re on hormonal birth control, you may consider finding a different form of birth control. Most importantly, take care of other stroke risk factors, like your cardiovascular health. Keep your cholesterol low with diet and exercise, and get a physical once a year to make sure you’re on the right track.
The bottom line
Your risk of stroke with migraine is only slightly higher — and not high enough to spend any time worrying about having a stroke. Track your symptoms, take care of your health and talk to your doctor, just as you would if you weren’t a migraine sufferer.
Our Team: We are Here to Help
We are a small, dedicated app development team that wants you to better understand your migraines and triggers. Everyone on the team has lived with migraines at some point in their lives. We are your community, and we’re here to help. Reach out any time with questions. [email protected].
As always — please seek the advice of a doctor for medical questions. Our app team cannot give medical advice.
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