2016 Volume 26 Issue 5 Pages 242-248
Background: The associations of bowel movement frequency and laxative use with cardiovascular disease (CVD) are unclear.
Methods: A total of 72 014 subjects (29 668 men and 42 346 women) aged 40 to 79 years, without a history of CVD or cancer, completed a lifestyle questionnaire at baseline between 1988 and 1990 that included information on bowel movement frequency (daily, every 2–3 days, or once every 4 or more days) and laxative use (yes or no), and were followed-up until 2009.
Results: During the subjects’ 1 165 569 person-years of follow-up, we documented 977 deaths from coronary heart disease (561 men and 416 women), 2024 from total stroke (1028 men and 996 women), 1127 from ischemic stroke (606 men and 521 women), and 828 from hemorrhagic stroke (388 men and 440 women). The prevalence of CVD risk factors, such as diabetes, stress, depression, and physical inactivity, was higher in laxative users and in those with a lower frequency of bowel movements. The multivariable HRs (95% confidence intervals [CIs]) of laxative users were as follows: 1.56 (95% CI, 1.21–2.03) for coronary heart disease and 1.37 (95% CI, 1.07–1.76) for ischemic stroke in men, and 1.27 (95% CI, 1.08–1.49) for total stroke, and 1.45 (95% CI, 1.17–1.79) for ischemic stroke in women. Similar results were observed even after the exclusion of deaths that occurred early in the follow-up period. A significant association between bowel movement frequency and mortality from CVD was not observed.
Conclusions: Constipation could be a marker of exposure to CVD risk factors, and laxative use could be a risk factor for mortality from coronary heart disease and ischemic stroke.