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If You Spot This in Your Mouth, You're at Risk for Heart Attack, Says Study

The link between a dental condition and heart disease is explained. 
FACT CHECKED BY Emilia Paluszek

There's several factors that can increase the risk of heart disease, which is the leading cause of death in the United States for men and women. While age and genetics do play a role, so do lifestyle choices like poor diet, lack of exercise, smoking and gum disease. According to a study published in the Journal of Periodontology and conducted by Forsyth Institute and Harvard University scientists, people with periodontitis are at higher risk for stroke, heart attacks and other cardiovascular diseases. Read on—and to ensure your health and the health of others, don't miss these Sure Signs You've Already Had COVID.


Why Oral Health is Essential for Your Overall Well-Being

Woman stands about a mirror in a bathroom with open mouth.

Dr. Tomi Mitchell, a Board-Certified Family Physician with Holistic Wellness Strategies tells us, "Oral health is the state of your mouth and teeth. Therefore, it is essential to be aware of your oral health because it can affect your overall health. Poor oral health can lead to gum disease, which can cause tooth loss. Gum disease is also linked to other health problems such as heart disease, stroke, and diabetes.

Severe periodontitis is a serious gum infection that damages the soft tissue and destroys the bone that supports your teeth. If left untreated, it can lead to tooth loss. While periodontitis is typically caused by poor oral hygiene, certain medical conditions can increase your risk of developing the disease. For example, people with diabetes are more susceptible to infections, including periodontitis. In addition, studies have shown that periodontitis can worsen diabetes. This is because the inflammation associated with periodontitis can make it difficult for the body to control blood sugar levels. As a result, people with diabetes are advised to seek treatment for periodontitis as soon as possible. Doing so can help improve their overall health and reduce their risk of developing severe complications.

Additionally, poor oral health can also affect your appearance and self-confidence. For example, having yellow or missing teeth can make you feel less confident when smiling or talking to others. Therefore, taking care of your oral health by brushing and flossing regularly, visiting the dentist for checkups and cleanings, and eating a balanced diet is essential. Taking these steps will help you maintain good oral health and avoid any potential problems down the road."


Why Heart Health is so Important

Dr. Mitchell shares, "Every year, cardiovascular disease claims the lives of 17.3 million people worldwide. In the United States alone, 659,000 people die from heart disease yearly- one in every four deaths. Cardiovascular disease is the leading cause of death for men and women in the United States. Despite these staggering statistics, heart disease is largely preventable. Making some lifestyle changes can significantly reduce your risk of developing cardiovascular disease. Eating a healthy diet, exercising regularly, not smoking, and maintaining a healthy weight are all crucial factors in preventing heart disease.

Additionally, managing conditions such as diabetes, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol can also help to reduce your risk of heart disease. While there is no guarantee that you will never develop cardiovascular disease, healthy lifestyle choices can significantly lower your risk. As a society, we need to make some changes to reduce the burden of cardiovascular disease. By eating more nutritious diets, exercising regularly, and not smoking, we can help prevent heart disease. Let's commit ourselves and our loved ones to live healthier lives and create a future where cardiovascular disease is no longer the leading cause of death."


Link Between Gum Disease and Heart Attack Risk, According to the Study


Dr. Mitchell says, "There is now a significant body of evidence to support the independent associations between severe periodontitis and several non-communicable diseases, and this study supports this. These diseases include heart disease, diabetes, and respiratory disease. While the exact mechanisms remain unclear, it is thought that bacteria from inflamed gums can enter the bloodstream and contribute to developing these conditions.  These findings suggest that early diagnosis and treatment of periodontitis may be an essential strategy for preventing or delaying the onset of these chronic diseases."


Gum Disease is a Preventable Risk Factor

woman breathing with her mouth open

Dr. Mitchell states, "I have to say that I am impressed with this latest study on the relationship between gum disease and heart health. The findings are clear and definitive: gum disease is a risk factor for heart disease. This is not surprising, given what we already know about the link between inflammation and cardiovascular disease. What is surprising, however, is the magnitude of the effect. The study found that people with gum disease are three times more likely to develop heart disease than those without gum disease. This is a significant finding and underscores the importance of maintaining good oral health.

Moreover, the findings of this study have important implications for public health. First, gum disease is preventable, and this study provides further evidence that we must do more to promote oral health. This means increasing access to dental care, educating people about the importance of good oral hygiene, and supporting research into new treatments for gum disease. By taking these steps, we can help reduce the risk of heart disease and improve the overall health of our population."


What Should People Know About Heart Disease

closeup man's chest heart attack

"Heart disease is a broad term that refers to several conditions affecting the heart, including coronary artery disease, congestive heart failure, and arrhythmias," says Dr. Mitchell. "While some forms of heart disease cannot be prevented, such as genetic or related to aging, many cases of heart disease are preventable through lifestyle choices. Smoking, high blood pressure, diabetes, and obesity are all significant risk factors for heart disease, and making healthier choices can significantly reduce your risk of developing this condition. In addition to individual lifestyle changes, we need to make concerted efforts as a society to reduce the incidence of heart disease. This includes implementing policies that promote healthy eating and physical activity and investing in research and prevention programs. By working together, we can significantly reduce our country's heart disease burden."


Why Ignoring the Signs of Heart Disease is Dangerous?

no smoking sign

Dr. Mitchell states, "Heart disease is the leading cause of death in the United States, yet many people choose to ignore the warning signs. There are several reasons why this is dangerous. First, heart disease is a progressive condition that will only worsen over time if it is not treated. Ignoring the problem will only lead to more damage to the heart and potential complications. Second, heart disease can be symptomless in its early stages, so by the time symptoms develop; the condition may be quite advanced. This makes it all the more important to see a doctor regularly and to be aware of the risks. Finally, heart disease is largely preventable through lifestyle changes such as quitting smoking and eating a healthy diet. By ignoring the problem, you are putting yourself at unnecessary risk."


Having a Healthy Lifestyle Makes a Big Difference


Dr. Mitchell shares, "As a medical professional, I often discuss the importance of healthy lifestyle choices with my patients. I cannot stress enough how important it is to eat healthy foods, exercise regularly, and get adequate rest. These simple things can profoundly impact our overall health and well-being. Sadly, it seems that society is headed in the opposite direction. Processed foods are becoming more and more common, while opportunities for physical activity are decreasing. Our elected leaders need to do more to promote healthy lifestyles and make it easier for people to make the right choices. Access to quality healthcare, encouraging workplace wellness programs, and investing in public health initiatives are all essential steps in the right direction. As individuals, we also need to do our part. Each of us is responsible for taking care of our health and making choices that will benefit ourselves and society as a whole."

Heather Newgen
Heather Newgen has two decades of experience reporting and writing about health, fitness, entertainment and travel. Heather currently freelances for several publications. Read more about Heather