Constipation, an easy-to-identify condition, may be a marker for cardiovascular risk factors and increased cardiovascular risk in older women, according to the results of a large analysis.

The investigators hypothesized that because many of the factors that predispose a person to constipation are also risk factors for cardiovascular disease, constipation could be related to an increased risk of cardiovascular events.

Their evaluation of 73,047 participants of the Women’s Health Initiative revealed that those with moderate or severe constipation experienced more cardiovascular events (14.2 and 19.1 events per 1,000 person-years, respectively) than did those who did not suffer from constipation (9.6/1,000 person-years).

However, after adjustments were made for demographics, risk factors, dietary factors, medications, frailty and other psychological variables, the heightened cardiovascular risk remained only in the severely constipated group. After those recalculations, the women with severe constipation had a 23% higher risk of cardiovascular events.

Constipation was associated with increased age, black and Hispanic descent, smoking, diabetes, high cholesterol, family history of MI, hypertension, obesity, lower levels of physical activity, lower fiber intake and depression.

“Because constipation is easily assessed, it may be a helpful tool to identify women with increased cardiovascular risk,” Elena Salmoirago-Blotcher, MD, and colleagues wrote in the American Journal of Medicine.