The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has ranked Parkinson’s disease the 14th leading cause of death in the United States, and recent data has shown a 4.6 percent increase in the number of deaths attributed to this neurodegenerative brain disorder. A recent study conducted by the Uniformed Services University in Bethesda, Md. has revealed that middle-aged people who suffer from migraines are twice as likely to develop Parkinson’s disease later in life.

According to the National Parkinson’s Foundation, between 50,000 and 60,000 people are newly diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease each year in the United States. While Parkinson’s disease itself is not fatal, complications caused by it tend to be serious. Symptoms of Parkinson’s disease include shaking or tremors, slow movements, and trouble with balance.

"The patients in this study were not carefully examined and definitely diagnosed with Parkinson's disease," Dr. Michael S. Okun, national medical director of the National Parkinson Foundation, told CNN. "Head trauma and other neurological issues can manifest with symptoms similar to Parkinson's disease and future studies will need to better control for these factors."

A research team headed up by Dr. Ann J. Scher from the Uniformed Services University and the National Institute on Aging gathered data from 5,764 men and women participating in the AGES-Reykjavik cohort study. Participants who were born between 1907 and 1935 had been followed since 1967 and tested for headaches, migraines, symptoms of parkinsonism (a disorder related to Parkinson’s disease), diagnosis of Parkinson’s disease, restless legs syndrome, and a family history of Parkinson’s disease.

Middle-aged people who suffered migraines, compared to simple headaches, were twice as likely to be diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease. Migraine sufferers were also more likely to report at least four symptoms of Parkinson’s disease and family history. Results were strongest among participants who suffered migraines with aura, a relatively new label that refers to symptoms that are experienced before the actual headache occurs. Although some people who suffered from migraines without aura were later diagnosed with Parkinson’s disease, this finding was less consistent.

"Another theory is that in migraine sufferers there seems to be a higher deposition of metals, such as iron, in the brain and specifically in areas important to movement," Okun said. "Some experts believe that this metal deposition may place patients at risk for diseases like Parkinson's."

One out of every four U.S. households include someone who suffers from migraines, the Migraine Research Foundation reports. Out of the 36 million migraines sufferers in the U.S., 90 percent are unable to work or perform daily activities during a migraine attack, resulting in 113 million lost work days that cost employers to lose $13 billion each year.

Source: Ross W, Sigurdsson S, Scher A, et al. Midlife migraine and late-life parkinsonism. Neurology. 2014.