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HeadWay Issue #211 - Migraine and Dementia
April 21, 2022

In this issue:

Migraine and Dementia

New at Headache and Migraine News

Say what?! Dementia

Migraine and Dementia

Does migraine increase your risk of dementia later in life? Some recent studies say "yes". But let's take a closer look.

Dementia is a term used to describe a symptom of various diseases. By far the most common is Alzheimer's disease, though there are other common causes, such as vascular dementia, which is sometimes a result of a stroke.

A study published in 2020 found that migraine, specifically in midlife, was indeed a significant risk factor for all-cause dementia. Migraine with aura had the highest risk.

Side note: You might at first assume that vascular dementia would skew the results, since migraine is certainly associated with vascular issues. But a 2019 dementia study actually found that migraine was a risk factor for dementia, but not vascular dementia!

If you're familiar with risk and health, you might recognize that an increased risk factor is no reason to panic. An increased risk doesn't mean that you're likely to develop dementia. However, being aware of increased risk should motivate you to take preventative steps.

Researchers are very reluctant to be nailed down on a "silver bullet" approach to dementia prevention. However, typical advice includes:
  • Stop smoking
  • Be physically active
  • Eat a healthy diet with lots of vegetables and fruit
  • Socialize
  • Exercise your brain
  • Be cautious about medication use, in particular certain antidepressants.
When other conditions and diseases are risk factors, controlling these may also help - hence the need to treat migraine. Migraine is not normal and should not just be tolerated.

Other conditions to pay special attention to include:
  • Diabetes
  • Cardiovascular conditions (such as high blood pressure)
  • Depression
We all want to be told "just take this pill" to avoid dementia. But the reality seems to be that an overall healthy lifestyle is the best prevention at this point.

For a typical response to the prevention question, see Are there any proven Alzheimer's prevention strategies? at the Mayo Clinic. For a more migraine-focused article, take a look at Having Migraines in Midlife Could Increase Your Risk For Dementia

A 2021 article also looked at possible links between dementia and headache: Headache - A Window to Dementia: An Unexpected Twist. This article discusses the antidepressant connection.

If you really want to kick-start your brain health, here's a book we've talked about before: The Healthy Brain Book: An All-Ages Guide to a Calmer, Happier, Sharper You

New At Headache and Migraine News

A few more articles to check out:

Say what?! Demetia

It's a term we hear often, but what is the actual definition? The Mayo Clinic actually has a helpful list of dementia symptoms here, but they also give this simple definition:
Dementia is a term used to describe a group of symptoms affecting memory, thinking and social abilities severely enough to interfere with your daily life. It isn't a specific disease, but several diseases can cause dementia.

The National Institute on Aging in the USA also has useful information on dementia.

Thanks for reading!  Remember, if you have feedback or ideas for future issues, visit the HeadWay MailRoom.  Your password is nomoache.
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