New research findings show that weight loss surgery has the ability to reduce the frequency of migraine headaches or eliminate them altogether. The study was released by the American Society for Metabolic & Bariatric Surgery and looks at how many obese individuals received relief for their migraines. While there is still a debate about the possible link between being overweight and getting migraines, there is no doubt this study found positive and expected results.
Migraine headache is an intense pounding pain felt on one side of the head that can last from hours to days occurring one to four times per month. Migraine is a genetic neurological disease that involves both neurological and vascular changes in the brain. Even though the exact chain of events is not known, the migraine is triggered by:
- Certain foods
- Lack of sleep
- Environmental factors
The pain is different from a regular headache and is characterized by episodes, called Migraine attacks. Most common migraine symptoms are:
- Throbbing pain
- Light, sound and smell sensitivity
- Pain on one side
- Vision changes, cloudy or blurred vision
- Stiff neck
It is estimated that more than 37 million Americans (13% of adults in the U.S. population) suffer from migraines. A little less than 3 million have a chronic migraine and 5 million experience about one migraine attack per month. More than 11 million of the migraine sufferers get disabling pain. The direct and indirect impact on the economy is estimated at $2.25 billion a year of lost productivity. Migraines are prominent among:
- Ages between 35 and 55
- Lowest income Americans
There is not really a cure for migraine headaches although certain medications can help reduce the onset of the attacks. Being overweight increases the chance of getting migraine headaches since the fat stored under the skin releases molecules that trigger it. A research study by The Miriam Hospital, published in the medical journal of the American Academy of Neurology, shows that Weight loss surgery can improve the number, severity, and disability of the migraine headaches.
About the Study
This migraine and weight loss surgery study looked at 81 patients in total, most of whom were women. Every patient in the study had a BMI of 48, which is in the range of morbid obesity. The average age of the patients was 40 years old. All 81 individuals were also taking medications for migraines before they received the weight loss surgery. The patients were separated into two groups after eliminating six. Fifty-one went into one group as they had migraines after becoming obese and 24 that had migraines before they gained their weight. The study lasted for 8.5 years.
Results of the Study
The results of this migraine and weight loss surgery were solid, though the exact reason for the results is still inconclusive. Of the 51 patients who reported migraines after they became obese, 48 of them showed some kind of improvement and 41 of them had no more migraines. Out of the 24 individuals who had migraines before becoming obese, 18 had improvement after surgery, while 11 of those no longer had their migraines. As you can see, the improvements were much higher among individuals who got their migraines after becoming obese. This shows that migraines are somehow influenced by the obesity, most likely due to the various side effects being overweight has on the body overall. While researchers are not 100 percent sure why this is so, they feel that hormone levels before and after the weight loss surgery have something to do with it.
Migraines aren’t the only ailment improved by weight loss surgery. Through this study, researchers also noticed a significant increase in the patient’s cardiovascular system. They looked at over 9,000 patients who got weight loss surgery. The study showed that after five years, more than 84 percent of the patients who were in the morbidly obese range, survived with no stroke or heart attack. This study further proves that there are even unknown benefits not just to losing weight, but with the help of weight loss procedures like gastric bypass.