Menopause and Migraines: Women Who Have Them Have a Slightly Higher Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

For middle-aged women plagued by migraines, or hot flashes and night sweats, another worry may linger in the backs of their minds: whether these experiences have set them up for a heart attack, a stroke or another cardiovascular crisis.

Kim and her colleagues at Michigan Medicine, U-M’s academic medical center, published the new pair of studies based on an in-depth analysis of data from a long-term study of more than 1,900 women who volunteered to have regular physical exams and blood tests, and to take yearly health surveys, when they were in their late teens to early 30s.

Those women, now in their 50s and 60s, have provided researchers with a priceless view of what factors shape health in the years leading up to menopause and beyond, through their continued participation in the CARDIA study.

Just over 30% of the middle-aged women in the study reported they had persistent hot flashes and night sweats, which together are called vasomotor symptoms or VMS because they relate to changes in the diameter of blood vessels.

Of them, 23% had reported also having migraines. This was the only group for whom Kim and her colleagues found extra risk of stroke, heart attack or other cardiovascular events that couldn’t be explained by other risk factors that have long been known to be linked to cardiovascular problems.

In addition to those with persistent vasomotor symptoms starting in their 40s or before, 43% of the women in the study had minimal levels of such symptoms in their 50s, and 27% experienced an increase in VMS over time into their 50s and early 60s.

The latter two groups had no excess cardiovascular risk once their other risk factors were taken into account, whether or not they had migraines. Use of hormone-based birth control and estrogen to address medical issues did not affect this risk.

In the study of data from the same women in their earlier stages of life, the researchers found that the biggest factors in predicting which ones would go on to have persistent hot flashes and night sweats were having migraines, having depression, and smoking cigarettes, as well as being Black or having less than a high school education.

“These two studies, taken together, underscore that not all women have the same experiences as they grow older, and that many can control the risk factors that might raise their chances of heart disease and stroke later in life,” said Kim. “In other words, women can do a lot to control their destiny when it comes to both menopause symptoms and cardiovascular diseases.”


Catherine Kim, Pamela J. Schreiner, Zhe Yin, Rachael Whitney, Stephen Sidney, Imo Ebong, Deborah A. Levine. Migraines, vasomotor symptoms, and cardiovascular disease in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. Menopause, 2024; DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000002311

Catherine Kim, Abbi Lane, Thanh-Huyen T. Vu, Cora B. Lewis, Zhe Yin, Hui Jiang, Richard J. Auchus, Pamela J. Schreiner. Prospective early adulthood risk factors for vasomotor symptoms in the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study. Menopause, 2024; 31 (2): 108 DOI: 10.1097/GME.0000000000002306

Materials provided by Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan. Original written by Kara Gavin. Note: Content may be edited for style and length.

Michigan Medicine – University of Michigan. “Menopause and migraines: New findings point to power of prevention.” ScienceDaily. ScienceDaily, 14 February 2024. <>.

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