Our bathroom habits can tell us a lot about our health. The colour of our urine indicates levels of hydration while the consistency of our poo can reveal potential issues.
Constipation is a common toilet problem. It is thought to affect around one in seven otherwise healthy people.
This means you’re not pooing as often as usual or finding it hard to poo. It can also leave you feeling bloated or sick.
Quite often a change to your diet can solve this with eating foods rich in fibre a simple way to relieve constipation.
However, research has long suggested a link between constipation and a serious medical emergency – heart attacks. But what does this actually mean, and should we be worried if we have constipation?
There is an undeniable correlation between constipation and heart attacks, according to scientific studies.
Research, published in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension in 2019, concluded: “Constipation is one of the risks of cardiovascular disease, and patients with cardiovascular disease tend to be constipated.
“Physicians caring for patients with cardiovascular disease should acknowledge constipation and straining with it as important cardiovascular risk, and prematurely intervene to prevent it.”
But so far there is no evidence of causation – meaning no one can say for sure if having constipation puts you at direct risk for a heart attack.
As reported by HuffPost, cardiologist Doctor Andrew Freeman, said: “If you said to me, ‘Oh, someone’s constipated, they’re going to have a heart attack’…I would probably tell you that I don’t think there’s enough evidence for that.”
One study, published in Scientific Reports in July last year, discovered an association between constipation and risk of high blood pressure, stroke and heart attack.
However, the study volunteers were not being evaluated for constipation.
Commenting on the research, cardiologist Dr Anum Saeed, said: “Is this something that is because they have [certain] lifestyle habits?
“Or do they have other risk factors that are causing the increased risk for cardiovascular disease?
“Can we directly say that, yes, it’s the constipation? We cannot answer that question with these studies.”
She added: “This is just an association, just a small signal that needs proper research studies to follow and see if the signal is real or not.”
Experts theorised that the link might be due to poor diet being linked to both cardiovascular problems and constipation.
“I guess the way I would look at it is, overall body health and gut health…are highly linked to a whole variety of different health outcomes,” Dr Freeman said.
Straining during constipation may also be risky for some people.
Dr Freeman said: “When people are straining, they can really raise their blood pressure.
“And you can imagine that if you’re a relatively old or frail person, and you’re constipated and really straining with a bowel movement, your blood pressure could spike by 50, 60, 70 points, which could be enough to actually do damage in some cases.”
If you are concerned about your heart health you should speak to your GP.