Women Who Suffer From Migraines May Be More Likely to Develop Dementia


Sep 23, 2019


Migraine may be a risk factor of dementia, especially Alzheimer’s disease. As per a study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry, researchers found that older women with dementia were three times more likely to have suffered from migraines in their lifetime than those without dementia.

Migraines are powerful — almost to the point of splitting — throbbing headaches, accompanied by nausea, vomiting, and sensitivity to light. They can affect anyone of any age. Globally, they affect at least one in seven people, and in India, at least 150 million people suffer from them. Dementia is an overarching condition characterized by declining memory, language, problem-solving and other cognitive skills; Alzheimer’s, the most common form of dementia, is a neurodegenerative disorder that causes problems with one’s memory, cognition and behavior, often to the point of interfering with daily life.

One possible reason, researchers think, for the link between the two could be that migraine attacks may impede healthy lifestyles; for instance, the pain can prevent sufferers from being active, from being able to eat a healthy diet, from getting enough sleep, or from being able to exercise regularly. An unhealthy lifestyle is a known risk factor for dementia.

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For the current study, researchers interviewed about 679 people with no history of cognitive issues — with their average age being about 76 years – about their experiences with migraines. More than half of the sample size were women. Participants were tracked for five years and researchers found that at least 51 women had developed dementia over that time. They also found those who developed Alzheimer’s were more than four times more likely to have experienced migraine attacks in that time.

Therefore, this current finding may be helpful in catching Alzheimer’s and other degenerative conditions earlier in life, professor and study author Suzanne Tyas, from the University of Waterloo in Canada, said in a statement. This may be an important finding, considering the chances of degeneration in women’s brains are less likely to be caught in earlier stages compared to men’s. This is because, as The Swaddle had earlier reported, women outperform men on verbal memory tests, generally and in early stages of the disease, even though the degree of progression of Alzheimer’s may be the same in both. 

“Identifying a midlife risk factor, such as migraines, enables earlier detection of at-risk individuals,” she said. “And identifying a link to migraines provides us with a rationale to guide new strategies to prevent Alzheimer’s disease because so far, we don’t yet have any way to cure Alzheimer’s and only know that prevention is key.”


Written By Anubhuti Matta

Anubhuti Matta is an associate editor with The Swaddle. When not at work, she’s busy pursuing kathak, reading books on and by women in the Middle East or making dresses out of Indian prints.


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