Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of mortality worldwide, and according to the World Health Organization, identifying the risks early on is the best way to prevent premature deaths. Thankfully, there’s a new (and unexpected) way to test for these risks. Hint: It has to do with poop.
According to a study, published in Hypertension, an American Heart Association journal, the bacteria present in poop may help predict cardiovascular disease.
Which bacteria can indicate heart health?
Using data from the American Gut Project, researchers analyzed the microbial composition of nearly 1,000 stool samples. About half of the participants had at least one cardiovascular disease.
By comparing the stool samples, researchers were able to identify clusters of bacteria that exist more abundantly in people with CVD. Researchers are hopeful that these bacteria can help indicate or predict heart disease.
The abundant bacteria in people with CVD included:
The abundant bacteria in people without CVD included:
How does poop play a role in heart health?
As it does with almost every role in the body (i.e., immune functioning, mental health, and digestion), the gut microbiome can also affect heart health. Recent studies have shown changes in the gut microbiome can lead to cardiovascular disease risks, such as atherosclerosis, hypertension, and heart failure.
“Gut microbiota has a profound effect on cardiovascular function, and this could be a potential new strategy for evaluation of cardiovascular health,” study director Bina Joe, Ph.D., FAHA, says.
The gut microbiome is made up of millions of microorganisms, so they are bound to vary from person to person. “Despite the fact that gut microbiomes are highly variable among individuals, we were surprised by the promising level of accuracy obtained from these preliminary results,” Joe says.
Ultimately, her research leads her to believe that one day clinicians will be able to predict cardiovascular disease using just the stool sample. In the meantime, exercise, a healthy diet, stress management, and sleep can all promote a healthy gut and a healthy heart.