Colon Condition Linked to Cardiovascular Disease

Cardiovascular disease was more common in people with diverticular disease

/ Author:  / Reviewed by: Joseph V. Madia, MD Beth Bolt, RPh

(RxWiki News) Diverticulosis — the presence of small pockets in the walls of the colon — is a very common digestive condition among older people. Researchers recently explored if diverticular diseases raised risks for cardiovascular disease.

Individuals with diverticular disease, the new study discovered, had modestly increased risks of having a heart attack, stroke, blood clots and brain bleeding compared to people without the digestive disease.

These findings, the researchers suggested, show that diverticular disease may have a broader impact on overall health than previously believed.

"Talk to your doctor if you have a change in bowel habits."

For this research, lead investigator Lisa L. Strate, MD, MPH, assistant professor in the Division of Gastroenterology at the University of Washington School of Medicine in Seattle, WA, collaborated with researchers in Denmark and a physician scientist at the University of North Carolina, Chapel Hill.

Diverticulosis describes the formation of pockets along the wall of the colon. Diverticulitis develops when these pockets become inflamed.

According to the American Society of Colon & Rectal Surgeons, about 50 percent of Americans have diverticulosis by the age of 60, as do nearly all individuals aged 80 and older.

Diverticular disease and cardiovascular disease have several common risk factors, the researchers noted in the study’s introduction. These shared risk factors include obesity, physical inactivity, smoking and low intake of dietary fiber.

These risk factors could lead to an association, the authors suggested. “Modern theories propose that diverticulitis and perhaps diverticulosis occur in the setting of chronic intestinal inflammation that may lead to a low-grade inflammatory state,” they noted.

Inflammation is implicated in the development of cardiovascular disease, the authors explained.

Given all these factors, these researchers set out to establish a causal link between diverticular disease and cardiovascular disease.

For this study, the research team used Danish medical registries to identify 77,065 cases of diverticular disease. These individuals were matched with a control group of 302,572 people with no history of the digestive disease.

Compared to individuals in the control group, patients with diverticular disease tended to have a greater incidence of obesity, high cholesterol, chronic obstructive pulmonary disease (COPD — a lung condition that makes breathing difficult), connective tissue disease, diabetes and kidney failure.

After analyzing the data, the researchers discovered that compared to people in the control group, individuals with diverticular disease had:

  • 11 percent higher incidence of heart attack.
  • 11 percent higher incidence of stroke.
  • 36 percent higher incidence of venous thromboembolism (blood clots that form in vein most commonly in leg).
  • 27 percent higher incidence of subarachnoid hemorrhage (brain bleeding).

These risks remained elevated even after adjusting for related conditions, the authors reported, suggesting a possible causal link between diverticular disease and cardiovascular disease.

“Our findings indicate that diverticular disease may have broader implications for health,” the researchers wrote.

This study was published in a recent issue of Clinical Gastroenterology and Hepatology.

This research was supported by the Clinical Epidemiological Research Foundation, Denmark.

None of the authors disclosed a potential conflict of interest.

Review Date: 
December 20, 2013
Last Updated:
December 20, 2013