Health Matters

Could Migraines be Genetic?


12% of people live with migraine, 88% do not. Why? Is it their genes? Is it their lifestyle? Research shows both genes and lifestyle (non-shared environment) contribute significantly to their risk of getting migraines.

Using identical-twin studies, researchers found when one twin gets migraines and the second doesn’t, genes contribute (30–60%), and non-shared-environment about 35–55% to the risk of migraine. The genetic component is called ‘heritability’.

Importantly, a heritability figure provides absolutely no measure of how sensitive any trait (including migraine) is to changes in environment. So even if a trait such as migraine were 100% heritable, whether the trait is expressed, i.e., whether someone gets migraines, may still depend completely on the environment in which the person lives.

‘Concordance’ describes the likelihood of two people with shared genes developing the same disorder. Research looking at 1,300 twins found that:

1. Migraine concordance rates were:
a. 26% for identical twins –they have identical genes
b. 13% for non-identical twins – they share 50% the same genes
c. similar for male and female twin sets

2. For identical twins, the chance of another family member having migraines was:
a. 31% if neither twin had migraines
b. 45% if one had migraines
c. 60% if both twins had migraines

Study authors concluded the influence of genes on risk of getting migraines was much lower than previously thought.

Put another way, when one identical twin has migraines, the other twin doesn’t 74% of the time. When a non-identical twin has migraines, the other twin doesn’t 87% of the time. This research seems clear. Since identical twins have identical genes, the only factor differentiating a twin with migraine from a twin without, is environment/lifestyle differences. These encompass diet, sleep-sufficiency and quality, good-stress but not bad-stress, good levels of sunshine and vitamin D, appropriate exercise, good relationships, etc. All of these are within a migraineurs control.

The very hopeful message here is that even if your genetics are 100% the same, you don’t have to get migraines. Genes don’t decide your fate.

Article Written + Submitted by:

Andreas Klein Nutritionist + Remedial Therapist from Beautiful Health + Wellness
P: 0418 166 269

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