Let's consider a serious subject with a slightly off-color Japanese joke that goes: "A man entered the toilet, and after he finished and stepped out, he died. What was his occupation?"
The correct answer, of course, is lawyer. That's because lawyer in Japanese, bengoshi, can be written 便後死 -- also pronounced "bengoshi," but written with characters meaning to "die after elimination."
But Shukan Post (June 3) isn't laughing. It seems that among growing numbers of elderly males who suffer from constipation, straining while attempting a poop might be their last moment on earth.
As is in so many other cases, this phenomenon has become more pronounced since the start of the coronavirus pandemic. With more seniors remaining indoors, constipation started to become a problem.
"That wasn't such a concern among young people, but it's clear that from the start of the pandemic more older people began complaining of constipation," said Jun Nakajima, a specialist in thoracic surgery and professor at Yokohama City University.
"As people age, the peristaltic activity in their large intestine slows down, and the stomach muscles needed for elimination become progressively weaker," Nakajima added. "What's more, elderly people have been spending more time indoors and not getting exercise."
A company called Unrogu that provides an app for recording bowel activity has found, through surveys, that over 50% of 3,000 survey subjects said their bowel habits have changed since the start of the pandemic.
Now normally when a younger individual defecates, a systolic blood pressure of, say, 110 millimeters of mercury (abbreviated mm Hg) seldom changes. With an older person with a slightly higher BP of 120mm Hg, during elimination this might rise to 150 or 160 mm Hg. But according to one report, severe constipation might cause their blood pressure to spike to as high as 280mm Hg.
"For a person suffering from arteriosclerosis, this considerably raises the risk of stroke, cardiac infarction or aneurysmal dissection," said Nakajima.
Statistics for 2006-2009 at one emergency patient facility in Saitama recorded 101 deaths in toilets out of a total of 907 deaths.
In June 2021 a middle-aged man collapsed in a toilet stall at Hatchobori subway station. Seven hours passed until he was discovered. He was rushed to the hospital but pronounced dead on arrival.
Constipation can be deadly. In 2016, a researcher at Tohoku University estimated that the risk of strokes by persons who move their bowels only once in four days or even more was 1.39 times higher than those who have bowel movements one or more times per day.
The aforementioned professor Nakajima pointed out that temperatures inside toilet stalls also tend to be colder than the outside area, and making contact with a cold toilet seat also shocks the system, causing blood pressure to rise. To avoid tragedy, walking and other exercises are believed beneficial.
"Twenty grams of cabbage per day provides as much dietary fiber as 30 shiitake mushrooms or six apples," says Nakajima who advises that "Strong laxatives are best to be avoided."
The article is accompanied by an illustration of the suggested posture when seated atop a Western-style commode, to avoid setting off a medical crisis. The figure in the picture leans forward at an angle of 35 degrees with elbows on both knees, a position that makes it easier to push using the stomach muscles. And a pedestal is placed on the floor to raise the position of the feet.
So never let it be said that Shukan Post doesn't want to keep its valued readers hale and healthy. The same issue carries two more articles with advice about dietary precautions for diabetics and the importance of picking a good ophthalmologist before undergoing glaucoma surgery.© Japan Today