New research from the Mayo Clinic shows an increased risk of stroke or heart attack for patients with inflammatory bowel disease.
In this disease, an abnormal response from the body's immune system mistakes food for a foreign substance, which triggers an immune response whereby the body attacks the cells lining the intestines, causing inflammation of the gastrointestinal tract.
The study, presented by researchers at the American College of Gastroenterology's Annual Scientific Meeting in San Diego this month, claims that 1.5 million Americans suffer from Crohn's and ulcerative colitis.
IBD affects some 1.5 million Americans, and at present, there is no cure.
Medical News Today reported earlier this month that researchers from the University of Cambridge and Harvard University claim Paneth cells - specialized cells in the intestine - may be responsible for Crohn's disease.
Researchers from the current study calculated the risk of stroke and heart attack among IBD sufferers by analyzing data from 150,000 patients who took part in nine studies and compared these findings with the general population.
The study showed that there was a 10-25% higher risk of stroke and heart attack for those with IBD, and this increased risk was more marked for women.
Mayo Clinic researcher and study author Siddharth Singh says:
"Gastroenterologists should be cognizant of this relationship and should focus on better management of conventional risk factors, such as smoking cessation, recognition and control of hypertension and diabetes."
There is currently no cure for either of these forms of IBD, and sufferers must learn to manage the symptoms with lifestyle changes. The CDC estimates that the overall health care costs for these conditions is more that $1.7 billion. Each year, doctors will be consulted 700,000 times by people suffering the symptoms.
Typical advice for patients suffering these conditions includes:
- Working with the physician to manage the condition
- Reducing stress
- Taking regular moderate exercise
- Eating a healthy, balanced diet
- Stopping smoking.
People suffering from hypertension, a known risk factor for stroke and heart attacks, are commonly given the same advice, but the study does not indicate how many of the research subjects were heeding this advice.
And although the research linked IBD with an increased risk of stroke and heart attacks, they did not establish why this is the case.
Earlier this year, Medical News Today reported that researchers from the Jean Mayer US Department of Agriculture Human Nutrition Research Center on Aging (USDA HNRCA) at Tufts University, along with colleagues from Spain, linked the Mediterranean diet with a reduced stroke risk.
Researchers from New Zealand's University of Auckland claim that this diet, rich in fresh vegetables and whole grains and low in saturated fats and salt, may therefore be of benefit to people suffering from Crohn's disease and other forms of IBD.