Chronic Constipation and Heart Disease

Chronic constipation may be an indicator of risk factors for heart disease.

Postmenopausal women who suffer from chronic constipation may be at a higher risk for cardiovascular disease than their more “regular” counterparts, according to the results of a study published in The American Journal of Medicine.[1]

The researchers found that constipation was a marker for cardiovascular risk factors and increased cardiovascular risk—which does not mean that constipation is a causative factor. Instead, it may mean that women who suffer from chronic constipation are performing too little exercise and/or consuming a low-fiber diet—both of which are considered risk factors for heart disease. Thus, the constipation serves as a red flag for underlying behaviors and risk factors that could lead to heart disease.

The study involved 73,000 postmenopausal women in the U.S. who were followed for 6 – 10 years. Women with moderate and severe constipation experienced more cardiovascular events compared with women with no constipation. Women in the severe constipation group had a 23 percent higher risk of cardiovascular events.

While the results are not strong enough to warrant definitive recommendations, they may provide valuable information regarding health and lifestyle choices. Because constipation is so easily diagnosed, it could be a helpful tool for identifying women with increased cardiovascular risk.

Chronic constipation is a common problem and may be the result of poor diet and lifestyle habits. Women who suffer from chronic constipation may want to address the underlying issues that contribute to the problem rather than relying on laxatives to treat the symptom. As a result, they could be addressing factors that increase their risk of heart disease. Women can prevent constipation by eating a diet rich in fiber (fruits, vegetables, and grains), exercising regularly, and staying hydrated.


[1] Salmoirago-Blotcher E, Crawford S, Jackson E, et al. Constipation and risk of cardiovascular disease among postmenopausal women. The American Journal of Medicine. Published online June 10, 2011.