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Elderly and Silent Brain Injury: Get the Facts

Posted by Migraine Relief Center on Oct 17, 2014 7:00:00 AM

If you are older than 65 years old and have previously suffered from chronic migraines, you may be at a greater risk of brain injuries that do not present noticeable symptoms but could still compromise your overall cerebral health. 

Medical researchers from the University of Miami Miller School of Medicine recently published results of their study into the prevalence of silent brain injury among older patients who have lived with chronic migraine conditions for most of their lives. The results of the study indicate that lifelong migraine patients who have a history of vascular disease are twice as likely to experience the formation of cerebral blood clots that may interrupt the normal circulation to brain tissue.

A silent brain infarction, also known as a transient ischemic attack, is an asymptomatic condition that is typically observed in magnetic resonance imaging (MRI) studies. It is often believed that severe migraine episodes could result in transient ischemic attacks, which may increase the risk of stroke in younger patients who also suffer from high blood pressure.

Correlation with Previous Studies

Previous studies on the likelihood of migraines with aura causing small lesions to the substantia alba, also known as the white matter of the central nervous system, cannot be correlated to the University of Miami study at this time. In fact, of the 104 patients whose MRI scans were reviewed, none of them reported auras preceding their migraine headaches.

Chronic migraines precluded by abnormal sensory episodes tend to be more serious. As patients get older, their headache episodes are likely to subside, but their auras will remain. Migraine specialists who treat geriatric patients pay special attention to the prevalence of auras because they may indicate cerebral deterioration and a higher risk of stroke.

How a Healthy Lifestyle Can Help

If you suffer from migraines past the age of 50, you may want to keep an eye on your weight, nutrition, level of physical activity and habits. Living with obesity, diabetes and hypertension will more than double your risk of suffering a stroke if your migraines do not seem to go away.

It is important to remember that not all migraine patients will grow out of their conditions. Some people mention in jest that the only good part of getting older is knowing that your migraine headaches will go away. However, this is not the case for all patients, and sometimes the auras stick around long enough to remind you that your chances of getting a stroke are greater than those who never suffered from migraines.

Reducing Migraines

The bottom line for migraine patients is that they must keep in mind that they live with a disease that affects the vascular health of their brains. Early research into this condition incorrectly labeled it as being exclusively vascular in nature. Modern studies indicate that there is a significant neurochemical, behavioral and holistic correlation. By preventing migraines, patients are actually reducing their likelihood of suffering strokes later in their lives. This is something they can accomplish by:

  • Avoiding a sedentary lifestyle
  • Eating moderately
  • Exercising regularly
  • Avoiding foods that are high in fats, cholesterol, sodium and sugar

In essence, migraine patients want to avoid obesity and hypertension as they get older, particularly if they also experience auras. Another interesting aspect of the study by the University of Miami is that its results are consistent with the notion of Hispanic and African Americans being at greater risk of stroke. Treating migraines in a reactive manner may not have a positive effect in reducing the risk of stroke; however, a preventative strategy that emphasizes a healthy lifestyle will help overall vascular health while at the same time reduce migraine triggers.

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Topics: Migraine

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