Migraine in the News: Possible Suicide or Migraine-Related Stroke

An Arizona woman who lived with a chronic migraine has died under mysterious circumstances. We don’t yet know whether it could have been a suicide or somehow related to her migraine disease, but the news about this case seems to be the perfect time to remind my readers about a couple of very key things that could save your lives.

The police have ruled out foul play in Jean Valentino’s death. While I hate to speculate, I have to wonder if either suicide or stroke might have played a role in her death. Both are issues I’ve addressed in the past on this blog, but I believe I can never discuss either issue enough if it means I reach even one more person who hasn’t been exposed to this information.

Suicide and Migraine

I know what it’s like to be so desperate and completely devoid of hope that suicide feels like it might be a good answer to my suffering. I also know what it’s like to live and struggle with major depressive disorder and migraine-related depression.

What I also know is that with treatment for depression and an expansive toolbox of options for coping with migraine disease my ability to have hope returned. My ability to see the good, not just the awful, in my life started to return. My chronic migraines haven’t changed. But the way I relate to them has.

If you or someone you love are contemplating suicide, I beg of you to contact the National Suicide Hotline at 1-800-273-TALK (8255). Alternatively, you can reach out to the trained volunteers of the online hotline / live chat site IMAlive for help: IMAlive. And please, if you find either of these options impossible for any reason, please reach out to me. Send me an email ([email protected]) and we can talk about your situation. I’m here for you.

A migraine and Stroke

Although it’s common for people, even doctors sometimes, to reassure migraineurs with the admonition that no one ever died from a migraine, unfortunately, this isn’t true. While it’s very, very rare (about 20 people in 100,000 with a migraine will have a stroke), the risk of stroke among migraineurs can be deadly.

There is good research demonstrating the increased risk of stroke among patients who have a migraine. The risk is much higher for those living with a migraine with aura, but there is an increased risk for patients with a migraine without aura, too.

If you experience a migraine attack that lasts longer than 72 hours without at least a four-hour break, you are at increased risk of stroke and should seek immediate medical attention. This condition is known at a status migraine and should be taken very seriously. You can read more about a status migraine here: What You Should Know About a Migraine Lasting Longer Than 72 Hours.

Experts recommend limiting/controlling modifiable stroke-related risk factors, such as smoking, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and type 2 diabetes. Use of hormonal birth control can increase the risk of stroke among migraineurs, so you should have a conversation with your doctor about your particular risks and whether you should be taking it. Limiting your migraine triggers to reduce the frequency of your migraine attacks, if at all possible, can also reduce your risk.

Do you have questions about depression, suicide or migraine-related stroke? Please share them in the comments.

1. Merill, Laurie. “Family Seeking Answers After Woman Found Dead.” AZCentral.com. Sept. 7, 2012. http://www.azcentral.com/community/chandler/articles/2012/09/05/20120905family-seeking-answers-after-woman-valentino-found-dead.html.
2. Tietjen, Gretchen, MD. “A migraine and Stroke.” American Headache Society. http://www.americanheadachesociety.org/assets/1/7/Tietjen.pdf, accessed Sept. 7, 2012.
3. Etminan, Mahar; Takkouche, Bahi; Isorna, Francisco CaamaƱo; Samii, Ali. “Risk of ischaemic stroke in people with a migraine: systematic review and meta-analysis of observational studies.” BMJ, doi:10.1136/bmj.38302.504063.8F, accessed Sept. 7, 2012.
4. Coe, Jackee. “Body of missing Chandler woman found.” AZCentral.com. Sept. 2, 2012. http://www.azcentral.com/news/articles/20120902missing-chandler-woman-found.html.

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DISCLAIMER: Nothing on this site constitutes medical or legal advice. I am a patient who is engaged and educated and enjoys sharing my experiences and news about migraines, pain, and depression. Please consult your own health care providers for advice on your unique situation.