Stay Regular to Reduce Your Risk of Dying from All Causes and Decrease Your Risk of Stroke and Coronary Heart Disease
With most of the population not achieving their recommended dietary fiber needs, constipation is a common disorder in the Australian population. The distress and discomfort of this condition may not be the only reason to make lifestyle choices which reduce your risk becoming constipated. New research shows a potential link between constipation and increased risk of dying from any cause as well as suffering from a stroke or coronary heart disease.
Constipation can be defined as having fewer than three bowel movements a week. Stools are lumpy, hard, and dry and can be painful to pass. There can be a feeling of incomplete evacuation when you go to the toilet.
A stroke occurs when oxygen rich blood is blocked or reduced to your brain. An ischemic stroke is a more common type of stoke. This usually occurs due to a blood clot in your artery to your brain, preventing blood flow to your brain.
Coronary heart disease is when the major blood vessels supplying blood to your heart become narrowed. Not enough blood rich in oxygen are provided to your heart and this can cause chest pain and shortness of breath and lead to a heart attack or sudden cardiac arrest.
The study was a cohort study, a type of study which investigates the effects on a group of people. 3,359,653 United States veterans were selected as the cohort. The baseline period was between October 1, 2004, and September 30, 2006. The follow up period was conducted in 2013.
Researchers investigated the effects of constipation and laxative use with risk of dying from any cause and suffering from a stroke or coronary heart disease. 7.15% of the cohort were determined to have constipation.
Being constipated was linked to a 12% greater chance of death from any cause. An 11% higher risk of suffering from coronary heart disease and 19% greater incidence of suffering from an ischemic stroke.
If you think that popping a few laxatives will reduce your risk, there is not good news here. The risk of those people using two or more laxatives to alleviate the symptoms of constipation had similar risk of dying from any cause as well as suffering from coronary heart disease or stroke.
This research emphasizes the need to achieve your daily dietary fiber needs. An adult requires between 25g to 38g of dietary fiber each day. Plant foods which are rich in dietary fiber including whole grains, or whole grain containing foods such as Corn Thins slices, fruits, vegetables, legumes, beans, nuts, and seeds. By including half of each meal as produce and including more plant sources of protein you can achieve this daily target.
Take home message: Meeting your daily dietary fiber needs is more essential for your health than simply having healthy bowel movements. Achieving optimal gut health plays a major role in not only your toileting habits but also your health and life.
- Sumida K, Molnar MZ, Potukuchi PK, Thomas F, Lu JL, Yamagata K, Kalantar-Zadeh K, Kovesdy CP. Constipation and risk of death and cardiovascular events. Atherosclerosis. 2019 Feb;281:114-120. doi: 10.1016/j.atherosclerosis.2018.12.02 Epub 2018 Dec 23. PMID: 30658186; PMCID: PMC6399019.
- National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute Coronary Heart Disease. https://www.nhlbi.nih.gov/health-topics/coronary-heart-disease
- Health Direct. Stroke. https://www.healthdirect.gov.au/stroke
- National Institute of Diabetes and Digestive and Kidney Diseases. Constipation. https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/digestive-diseases/constipation