I’ve been a strong opponent of the way we treat migraines in this healthcare system. In general, we keep trying different medications until the doctor finds a medication that reduces or stops the headaches. Then we all jump up and down and pat each other on the back and call the process a success. If this is the approach your doctor has taken, then there ARE times when an everyday headache can be dangerous to your long term health.
Why? Because a migraine headache is unquestionably a cerebral (brain) manifestation of a systemic problem. If all we do is medicate the headache, we just signed an early death certificate for the patient because we have not fixed the problem. All we have done is control the symptoms. The “problem” was not a deficiency of Topimax or Depakote or Lyrica. Giving these drugs may control the symptoms, but in now way fix the problem that caused the headache in the first place.
So what is the problem?
A great place to look is at the blood vessels. Our vasculature that brings blood to every cell of our body. With this blood comes important nutrients, vitamins and minerals for a brain cell to function at its best.
When there is a problem with our blood vessels, our brain cells can’t get the nutrients it needs to make ATP. In case you don’t remember back to high school biology, ATP is the “energy currency” of our cells. It is what every cell needs to do anything and everything. The more ATP available, the healthier the cell. The less ATP available, the sicker the cell becomes.
In cells that require very high levels of energy, such as our muscles, our heart and our brain, this process is absolutely critical. If the brain does can not get the nutrients it needs to make enough ATP, a migraine or a seizure may be the result.
Ok. “So what exactly is the problem with poor vascular health”, you ask. With few exceptions, no one has a heart attack before they have a problem with the blood vessels leading to the heart. No one has a stroke without first having a problem with the blood vessels in the brain. Dementia begins with poor blood supply to the brain.
If you don’t fix the vascular problem that is contributing to the migraine, you are allowing unchecking damage to your blood vessels to occur. With enough time, this will lead to a heart attack, a stroke or the slow process of dementia and loss of your cognitive function.
Medications will NOT fix this. In fact, in several cases they will make the process worse.
This is strongly confirmed by this current study linking migraine with aura and cardiovascular disease. Strangely, the risk of stroke was massive (380% increased risk) in women with NO established risk factors for heart disease. However, in those women who DID have risk factors for heart disease and experienced migraines with aura, the risk of having a heart attack was increased 334%.
In other words, you can’t win either way. Having migraines with aura will either lead to a heart attack or a stroke. The ONLY way to save yourself is to make the changes needed to improve your vascular health.
Sadly, despite all this research, I have yet to EVER have a patient come in with migraines that were given any type of lifestyle advice by any other provider (specialists included). So yes–Everyday headaches can be dangerous. Even deadly.