You’ve probably considered what constipation means for your stomach health and dietary choices, but you probably haven’t considered how – or whether – it can impact your heart health.
Apparently, several studies show that constipation is associated with an increased risk of heart attack. The scope of this data may seem alarming. At least 2.5 million people a year in the United States visit a doctor because of constipation, according to the Cleveland Clinic ― does this mean our bathroom problems may be more serious?
Before you panic, experts have a lot to explain on this topic. Here’s what they think about the relationship between the two issues, and what else to know about them:
The Relationship Between Defecation and Heart Problems
“If you said to me, ‘Oh, someone has constipation, they’re going to have a heart attack’… I would probably tell you that I don’t think there’s enough evidence for that,” explains Dr. Andrew Freeman, a cardiologist at National Jewish Health in Denver.
You can find correlations between constipation and heart attacks in research, but evidence of causation currently doesn’t exist, Freeman says. In other words, no one can definitively say that constipation puts a person at risk for a heart attack.
For example, the authors of a study published in Scientific Reports in July found a link between constipation and the risk of high blood pressure, stroke, and heart attack. However, study volunteers were not evaluated for constipation. The participants were actually in the hospital for other reasons, said Dr. Anum Saeed, a cardiologist at the UPMC Heart and Vascular Institute in Pittsburgh.
“Is this because they have (certain) lifestyle habits? Or do they have other risk factors that lead to an increased risk of cardiovascular disease?” Said said. “Can you just say yes, it’s constipation? We can’t answer that question with this study.”
He added, “This is just an association, just a small signal that requires proper research studies to follow and see whether the signal is real or not.”
What Your Constipation Says About Your Overall Health
“I think from my perspective, body health and overall gut health…is really linked to a variety of different health outcomes,” Freeman said.
If you are someone who rarely exercises and eats processed foods, chances are you won’t have frequent bowel movements. It is also a risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
So, the problem may not be a lack of bowel movements; instead, it’s lifestyle habits that cause the problem, Freeman says.
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More research is needed to determine whether constipation is a risk factor for heart attacks.
However, pushing when constipated may be risky for certain people. Some studies note that pushing when constipated can pose cardiovascular risks, and that’s not wrong, explains Freeman.
“When people push, they can actually increase their blood pressure,” Freeman said. “And you can imagine that if you are a relatively old or frail person, and you are constipated and straining a lot when you have a bowel movement, your blood pressure could spike by 50, 60, 70 points, which is actually enough to cause an increase in blood pressure. damage in some cases.”
Take Care of Your Liver and Intestine
While you can’t change genetic risk factors for heart disease – such as a predisposition to high cholesterol or a family history of heart attacks – certain lifestyle behaviors are within your control, Saeed says.
These include managing body weight, following a nutritious eating pattern such as the Mediterranean diet, controlling and monitoring high blood pressure and high cholesterol, and not smoking, he said, as well as getting enough sleep. (The American Heart Association recommends seven to nine hours of rest each night for adults.)
Each week, you should also do at least 75 minutes of vigorous-intensity exercise and 150 minutes of moderate-intensity exercise, says Saeed.
In addition to following a regular exercise routine, it’s important to eat fiber-rich foods (such as beans, lentils, fruits and vegetables) and drink plenty of water to prevent constipation, according to the Cleveland Clinic. You also have to manage things like stress, anxiety and depression, which can also impact your gut health, according to Johns Hopkins Medicine.
Not only will this behavior help keep your heart and gut healthy, but it will also have a positive impact on your body as a whole.