Young adults with migraine could have higher stroke risk: Study

A new study found that young adults have a higher risk of developing a stroke from non-traditional risk factors such as migraines and blood clotting disorders

Traditional risks such as high blood pressure and high cholesterol are known to be major risk factors for stroke. Now, a new study has found that people aged between 18 and 34 years have a higher risk of developing a stroke from non-traditional risk factors such as migraines.

The study, led by researchers from the American Heart Association, looked into risk factors that were the top contributors to stroke risk among young adults. Previous research has shown that type 2 diabetes, smoking, obesity, low physical activity, alcohol abuse or coronary heart disease are some of the traditional risk factors that are linked to higher risk for stroke. 

However, the new study found an increased incidence of strokes even among young adults without these risk factors, the university’s press statement revealed.

For the study, the researchers matched data from over 2,600 people who had strokes to more than 7,800 people who did not identify which risk factors may most often lead to strokes. The findings showed that nontraditional stroke risk factors, such as migraines, blood clotting disorders, kidney failure, autoimmune diseases or malignancy, were significantly linked to the development of strokes in men and women aged between 18 and 44 years, the statement explained.

Notably, migraine was the most important nontraditional stroke risk factor among people aged between 18 and 34 years, accounting for 20% of strokes in men and nearly 35% in women. The association between stroke and nontraditional stroke risk factors was stronger in adults younger than 35 years, the statement elaborated.

Furthermore, among people aged between 45 and 55 years, nontraditional risk factors accounted for more than 19% of strokes in men and nearly 28% in women. Among traditional risk factors, high blood pressure was the most important among 45 to 55 years, accounting for 28% of strokes in men and about 27% in women.

These findings are important as often the focus is only on traditional risk factors, lead author Michelle Leppert said in the statement. The nontraditional factors are also crucial to understanding stroke risk, she adds.

“In fact, the younger they are at the time of stroke, the more likely their stroke is due to a nontraditional risk factor,” Leppert says in the statement. “We need to better understand the underlying mechanisms of these nontraditional risk factors to develop targeted interventions.”

Researchers have looked into habits and diets that play a role in preventing strokes. For instance, a 2022 study published in the journal Neurology, found that four hours of light physical exercise every week is linked to milder symptoms of intracerebral haemorrhage, the most serious type of stroke, as well as higher survival rates.

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