Migraines Are a Significant Risk Factor for Dementia

older couple with therapist
older couple with therapist
Researchers found data that showed in older adults migraines are a risk for all-cause dementia, including Alzheimer disease.

Migraines are a significant risk factor for Alzheimer disease (AD) and all-cause dementia, according to a study published in the International Journal of Geriatric Psychiatry.

In this population-based, prospective cohort study, researchers analyzed data on migraine history and all covariates, including potential confounding and intervening variables, for community-dwelling older adults aged ≥65 years who screened as cognitively intact at baseline (N=679). A cognitive assessment was conducted at follow-up 5 years later; dementia diagnoses were based on clinical examination with diagnoses of all-cause dementia, AD, and vascular dementia.

Migraine history was significantly associated with all-cause dementia (odds ratio [OR], 2.97; 95% CI, 1.25-6.61) and AD (OR, 4.22; 95% CI, 1.59-10.42). This association was maintained after adjusting for confounding and intervening variables. Migraines were not significantly associated with vascular dementia (OR, 1.83; 95% CI, 0.39-8.52), even after adjustment (OR, 1.52; 95% CI, 0.20-7.23).

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A limitation of the study was the inclusion of self-reported data at baseline. Migraine data did not include medical records with diagnoses made by standardized migraine criteria. Additional data on migraine characteristics would aid in determining the effects of migraines on cognitive outcomes.

“Identifying a midlife risk factor for dementia, such as migraines, enables earlier detection of at‐risk individuals in addition to contributing to our understanding of AD etiology,” the researchers concluded. “It also provides a rationale for the development of new preventive strategies for AD and treatments targeting migraines and associated intervening variables. Implications for clinical practice include earlier screening for cognitive decline in migraine sufferers, as well as more aggressive treatment of potential intervening variables to delay dementia, improve quality of life, and increase the likelihood of healthy aging.”


Morton RE, St. John PD, Tyas SL. Migraine and the risk of all‐cause dementia, Alzheimer’s disease, and vascular dementia: A prospective cohort study in community‐dwelling older adults [published online September 4, 2019]. Int J Geriatr Psychiatry. doi: 10.1002/gps.5180