Constipation is common in Western societies, accounting for 2.5 million-physician visits/year in the US. Since many factors predisposing to constipation are also risk factors for cardiovascular disease, we hypothesized that constipation may be associated with increased risk of cardiovascular events.
We conducted a secondary analysis in 93,676 women enrolled in the observational arm of the Women’s Health Initiative. Constipation was evaluated at baseline by a self-administered questionnaire. Estimates of the risk of cardiovascular events (cumulative endpoint including mortality from coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, angina, coronary revascularization, stroke and transient ischemic attack) were derived from Cox proportional hazards models adjusted for demographics, risk factors and other clinical variables (median follow-up: 6.9 years).
The analysis included 73,047 women. Constipation was associated with increased age, African American and Hispanic descent, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, family history of myocardial infarction, hypertension, obesity, lower physical activity levels, lower fiber intake, and depression. Women with moderate and severe constipation experienced more cardiovascular events (14.2 and 19.1 events/1000 person-years, respectively) compared to women with no constipation (9.6/1000 person-years). After adjustment for demographics, risk factors, dietary factors, medications, frailty and other psychological variables, constipation was no longer associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular events except for the severe constipation group, which had a 23% higher risk of cardiovascular events.
In postmenopausal women, constipation is a marker for cardiovascular risk factors and increased cardiovascular risk. Since constipation is easily assessed, it may be a helpful tool to identify women with increased cardiovascular risk.
Keywords: cardiovascular disease, prevention, women’s health, risk factors