Inflammatory bowel disease patients at higher risk for heart attack and stroke

IBS and heart attackResearch presented by the Mayo Clinic has shown that not only do people suffering from inflammatory heart disease have to contend with potentially life-threatening complications, but that they also have to face much higher risks of heart attack, stroke, and heart disease.

Inflammatory bowel disease involves chronic inflammation of part or all of the digestive tract.  Crohn’s disease and ulcerative colitis are the two primary diseases that are classified as inflammatory bowel diseases. Other diseases which are also consider inflammatory bowel diseases include collagenous colitis and lymphocytic colitis; however, they are most often separated from the two “classic” inflammatory bowel diseases.


Ulcerative colitis usually develops over time, and most often affects the inner-most lining of the large intestine and the rectum.   It is diagnosed based upon the symptoms of the disease, falling into one of five groups: ulcerative proctitis, proctosigmoiditis, left-sided colitis, pancolitis, or fulminant colitis.  Individuals that suffer from ulcerative colitis will often go through periods of extreme flare ups followed by periods of remission.

Unlike ulcerative colitis, Crohn’s disease can affect any part of the digestive tract; however, it most commonly affects the ileum and the colon. The inflammation caused by Crohn’s disease can lead to stenosis and fistulas. Individuals with Crohn’s disease can have varying degrees of symptoms, ranging from mild to severe.  Signs and symptoms of Crohn’s disease include: diarrhea, abdominal pain, bloody stool, ulcers, reduced appetite and weight loss.  In severe cases, malnutrition may result.  In addition to these common symptoms, individuals with severe Crohn’s disease may also notice fever, fatigue, arthritis, inflammation of the eyes, skin disorders, and/or inflammation of the liver or bile ducts. The symptoms of Crohn’s disease can occur suddenly, or they can gradually develop over time.

Inflammatory bowel disease raises risk of stroke, heart attack: Study

The researchers looked at nine different studies which included over 150,000 patients with inflammatory bowel disease.  They used the data to estimate the risk of heart disease and stroke in this patient population, compared to the general population. The results of the evaluation showed that patients with inflammatory bowel disease were at a 10 to 25% increased risk of heart disease, including heart attack and stroke, compared to those without inflammatory bowel disease.  Interestingly, the increased risk was more prominent in females with inflammatory bowel disease. However, while the association between inflammatory bowel disease and heart disease was found to be significant, a direct cause-and-effect relationship was not determined.

Tips to reduce heart disease risk in inflammatory bowel disease patients

The study sheds light on the fact that patients with inflammatory bowel disease need to be carefully monitored for heart disease risk.  Modifying heart disease risk factors in this at-risk population will help to control the higher level of heart disease that is seen in this population.  The factors that healthcare practitioners should address with their inflammatory bowel disease patients include: stress reduction and smoking cessation, in addition to a healthy diet and regular exercise regimen. If these modifiable heart disease risk factors are addressed, it will hopefully lead to a reduced risk of heart disease in people already suffering from inflammatory bowel disease.

Here are some other tips to keep your heart healthy with inflammatory bowel disease.

  • Manage your condition by following your treatment plan
  • Control your stress levels
  • Eat a heart-healthy balanced diet with plenty of fruits and vegetables, whole grains, lean meat and fish
  • Get moderate exercise
  • Quit smoking if you smoke
  • Know the warning signs of heart failure: shortness of breath, swollen ankles and feet, and fatigue

By following these tips you can better protect your heart while living with IBD.


Related Reading:

Inflammatory bowel disease (IBD) linked to diversity of viruses and gut bacteria

IBD-related colorectal cancer risk raised by chronic inflammation, immunosuppressive therapy

IBS vs. IBD: Causes, symptoms, risk factors, and complications

Fecal impaction: Symptoms, causes, and home remedies

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