Most of us don’t think twice about how often we visit the toilet, but research has found that bowel movement frequency could predict your future risk of a heart attack.
There are around 2.3 million people in the UK living with coronary heart disease (CHD), which is a major cause of death worldwide.
According to the NHS, CHD is the term that describes what happens when your heart’s blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries.
If the arteries that supply blood to your heart become blocked, it can lead to a heart attack.
The disease is usually a result of poor lifestyle decisions, such as smoking and regularly drinking, but health experts have warned that daily bowel movements are a risk factor too.
Researchers explored the association between bowel movement frequency with major vascular and non-vascular diseases outside the digestive system.
They analysed data from the China Kadoorie Biobank in which participants from 10 geographically diverse areas across China were enrolled between 2004 and 2008.
For the study, 487,198 participants aged 30 to 79 years without cancer, heart disease or stroke were included and followed up for an average of 10 years.
They found that participants with bowel movements ‘more than once a day’ had higher risks of CHD when compared to the reference group with ‘one a day’ frequency.
This pattern was also seen with other chronic complications, including heart failure, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, type 2 diabetes mellitus and chronic kidney disease (CKD).
The bowel movement frequency of less than three times a week was also associated with higher risks of CHD, major coronary events, ischaemic stroke and CKD.
The researchers wrote: “BMF [bowel movement frequency] was associated with future risks of multiple vascular and non-vascular diseases. The integration of BMF assessment and health counselling into primary care should be considered.”
Previous research has also identified a link between constipation and cardiovascular disease – those with the condition tend to be constipated.
Figures have shown that more than half of people with heart failure experience continence issues such as urgency and urge incontinence.
What are the immediate symptoms of a heart attack?
CHD develops slowly over time and the symptoms can be different for everyone.
In some cases, people don’t know they have CHD before they have a heart attack.
Angina is the term used to describe the most common symptoms of CHD.
According to the British Heart Foundation (BHF), these include:
- Chest pain
- Shortness of breath
- pain travelling through the body
- feeling faint