Most people who suffer from true migraine headaches believe that they have a problem in their brain, and that’s why their head hurts.  This is the concept that mainstream medicine promotes, so, when the headache is controlled through medication, we’re all happy and view the problem as solved.

But this couldn’t be further from the truth.  The reality is that a migraine headache is actually a reflection of something wrong systemically.  Merely controlling the headache with medication, which may seem like a good initial solution, will actually create more problems in the long run.

This does not mean that migraine sufferers should be denied pain relief, although the likelihood of responding to the first medication used is typically around 30%.  But if your doctor is only working on pain relief and not fully addressing the comprehensive nature of what a migraine represents, then I would suggest you find another who will.

Why is this so important?  One of the strongest links of chronic diseases and migraine sufferers centers around heart disease and stroke.  Since both of these relate to the health of our blood vessels, let’s call it a vascular problem.  Migraine sufferers clearly have vascular problems and this is what upsets the brain cells and causes the migraine in the first place.  This has to be addressed, and, as mentioned, not a single medication available to treat migraines (or any other conditions, for that matter) improves the health of the blood vessels.

But, what if you are a migraine sufferer and do not have any risk factors for a heart attack or stroke?  That means you’re safe, right?  Very wrong.

One of the ways to get a peek at how healthy the blood vessels are is called pulse wave velocity.  To check pulse wave velocity, a special pressure cuff is used at two different areas (the neck and the thigh, or the arm and ankle as examples).  The speed of the wave of blood is then measured using these cuffs.  Faster moving waves indicate a blood vessel that is very stiff, while a slow wave indicates a healthy, more relaxed blood vessels.  Envision this like jumping on a mattress vs jumping on a 2 x 4.  How long will it take the force of your jump to make it to the other side in either case?  Obviously, the board is much, much faster because it is stiff.

This particular study looked at the pulse wave of migraine sufferers and compared them to the pulse wave of non-sufferers.  The results demonstrate that, even with no established risk factors for heart disease, there was a problem with the blood vessels.  THIS is the heart of the problem (pun intended).  The pain of a migraine headache is no fun, but it will not kill you, although at times it may seem like a better option.  The problems with the blood vessels, however, WILL kill you given enough time.

The bottom line is that migraine sufferers need to understand that, to overcome their condition, they need to institute lifestyle changes such as avoidance of refined carbohydrates, increase the dietary ratio of omega-3 to omega-6 fats, exercise consistently, NO smoking and manage stress.  While this short list is not comprehensive, it is a start to a healthier brain.



James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.