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HeadWay, Issue #002 -- Mixed blood and Migraines
September 20, 2003

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In this month's issue:

Mixed blood and Migraines

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Migraines

Say what?! Smart blood vessels

Mixed blood and Migraines

You may have recently heard about a link between a common heart condition and migraine. An announcement was made on August 31st about a study that was done with recovering stroke patients.

Although most migraineurs who think they're having a stroke are just experiencing migraine symptoms, a link between migraine and stroke has been suspected for a long time. Those with migraine and aura are 8 times more likely to suffer from stroke than the general population (although the risk is still quite small).

A stroke happens when an artery can no longer do it's job (because it's blocked or has burst), and so the brain doesn't get the oxygen it needs. Migraine and stroke symptoms are often so similar that it's hard not to wonder if some migraines could be related cousins.

When the results of this study came in, researchers had a possible new treatment to think about, and another clue about the cause of migraine.

As many as one in five people have a heart condition known as Patent Foramen Ovale (PFO). In stroke patients, the percentage is much higher. But the percentage is also much higher in migraineurs - as high as 50%. PFO refers to a heart that was not fully developed in a baby. There is a hole in the wall that normally separates the blood that has oxygen and the blood that doesn't. The blood without the oxygen heads to the lungs to get a "fill-up". But if it gets onto the wrong side of the heart, it may miss it's stop at the lungs altogether.

The study showed a couple of things. First, the stroke patients with PFO had a much higher prevalence of migraine than the general population. Second, when their PFO was treated (using a non-surgical method), 80% of the patients reported significantly fewer migraines in the following year.

The study is a long way off from really proving the connection with certainty, or leading us to a new treatment. But it does give us possible clues into the inner workings of some migraines, particularly those with aura. Why does closing this hole in the heart make a difference? What is it that is triggering the migraines?

So far, researchers have two ideas. First, that tiny blood clots are making it to the brain that normally wouldn't, and this triggers the migraine. Second, that the mixed blood is causing a biochemical change in the brain that triggers the migraine. Either way, scientists have suggested often before that the aura itself is caused by a lack of oxygen in the brain. It's the fact that this study seems to fit so well with so much prior research that makes it so interesting.

For the time being, watch for changes in your headaches, and learn how to breath properly (deeply and from the diaphragm!). Who knows? A little extra oxygen might make a big difference!

Read more about this study

Read more about migraine and aura

What Your Doctor May Not Tell You About Migraines

A review of the book by Dr Alexander Mauskop and Dr Barry Fox

There were two things that put me off this book right away. First, Dr. Mauskop is promoting a specific product, MigreLief (although I appreciated the fact that he noted this right at the start). Second, the back cover told me that I was about to read about a "seven-step program". When it comes to migraine, a very complicated problem with an unknown cause, I'm very suspicious about "programs" that make great claims. I almost didn't even read the book.

When I read the book, I found out that it wasn't just a sales pitch and another miracle program. In fact, if it is a sales pitch it's a very gentle one backed up by lots of good data. His "seven-step program" is simply some very practical advice organized in a practical way, not a new miracle cure. Some of his tips you've heard before, probably many you haven't, but they're excellent.

In fact, this book is quickly rising to the top of my list of migraine books. Here's why:
* The information is practical and down to earth
* It's backed up by both experience and research
* It offers a description of a wide variety of treatment ideas, not just a few of the author's pet ideas
* It explains things more clearly than any other book on migraine I've read
* It's organized well enough to make a great reference on the shelf

I especially enjoyed reading his numerous tips on eliminating environmental triggers (chapter 7). He talks about everything from pets to dust to humidity to ions.

He even goes into the various drug treatments, although his focus is generally elsewhere.

Although the authors do recommend MigreLief (a combination of feverfew, magnesium and riboflavin), they also point out that you can purchase all these supplements separately at your local drug store or online. They offer good reasons for what they're suggesting, and really this only takes up a small portion of the book.

If you want a good well rounded discussion of today's migraine treatments and home remedies, give this one a chance. You'll probably learn quite a few things about your headaches that you didn't know before! I'm looking forward to taking a closer look at his 9 suggestions for avoiding pollution, his 6 suggestions for cutting back stress, his 5 suggestions for avoiding migraines at high altitudes, and so on and so on...

The MigreLief website

Buy the book

Say what?! Smart vessels

Vasoconstriction: This word refers to the decrease in the size of the blood vessels. Although most researchers are now saying that migraines have more to do with the chemical messages in the brain and brain stem, the changes in size of the blood vessels do play a large part in the migraine picture.

Vasodilation refers to an increase in blood vessel size. These increases and decreases control the body's blood flow and insure that every part of the body is getting what it needs, but when blood vessels begin to change size in your head for no good reason, it could be the beginnings of a migraine. Some treatments are focused around getting the vessels back to their normal size.

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