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Heart Talk – October 2021

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MMore than 108 million Americans have high blood pressure, but only one in four of them has their condition under control, according to the CDC. This is worrying because if left untreated, high blood pressure can silently damage blood vessels and vital organs, including the heart, brain, and kidneys. Another startling fact: Deaths related to this dangerous disease have increased by 66 percent in the United States since 2003

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The good news, however, is that high blood pressure (blood pressure of 130/80 or higher) is both preventable and easily treatable. Still, it remains the most common uncontrolled chronic condition in the US, in part because many healthcare providers fail to look for its root cause. Here’s a look at a surprising culprit for high blood pressure that has been implicated in several new and recent studies, as well as key findings from the BaleDoneen Method of preventing heart attacks, strokes and chronic diseases.

The hidden health threat in your mouth

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According to a, otherwise healthy people with periodontal disease (PD) are more than twice as likely to have high blood pressure as those with healthy gums Study March 2021 published in the journal Hypertension. The study included 250 people with severe gum disease and 250 people without this chronic oral infection, all of whom underwent blood pressure tests and extensive periodontal examinations. The average age of the study participants was 35 years.

The researchers also measured study participants’ blood levels of inflammatory biomarkers such as C-reactive protein and assessed them for a variety of cardiovascular risk factors, including family history, body mass index, smoking, age, gender and physical activity level. The study found that Parkinson’s disease, also known as gum disease, was independently associated with an increased risk of high blood pressure.

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Among those with gum disease, 15 percent had blood pressure of 140/90 or higher, compared to 7 percent of those without Parkinson’s. The study also found that nearly 50 percent of the PD group and 42 percent of the control group met diagnostic criteria for hypertension (a score of 130/80 or greater), as defined in recently updated US blood pressure guidelines. Under these guidelines, a score below 120/80 is considered normal. A systolic blood pressure (top number) between 120 and 129 and a diastolic blood pressure (bottom number) below 80 is considered “elevated”.

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Study participants with Parkinson’s disease also had higher blood sugar, LDL “bad” cholesterol, and white blood cell counts — and lower levels of the heart-protecting HDL “good” cholesterol — than the group with healthy gums. Many people in both groups were previously unaware that they had high blood pressure: a condition that’s often called the “silent killer” because it gives few clues about its presence until serious complications arise. This can include heart attacks, strokes, kidney failure, vision loss, dementia and many other devastating conditions.

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What is the link between gum disease and high blood pressure?

Parkinson’s disease, also known as gum disease or periodontitis, is one of the world’s most common chronic diseases, affecting nearly 65 million Americans, including 50 percent of those over the age of 30 and 70 percent of those over the age of 65. Many of them are unaware that they have this chronic bacterial infection of the gum tissue and bone that supports teeth because PD may not cause any overt symptoms in the early stages. Later symptoms include bleeding and/or receding gums, bad breath, red or swollen gums, loose teeth, and a change in your bite.

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Many studies have linked PD to an increased risk of a variety of life-threatening conditions, including heart attacks, stroke, Alzheimer’s and other types of dementia, diabetes, and various types of cancer. A landmark BaleDoneen study was the first to show that oral bacteria from PD can actually cause cardiovascular disease, the leading cause of death in American men and women.

In the 2021 study discussed above, “[our] Evidence suggests that periodontal bacteria damage the gums and also trigger inflammatory responses that can influence the development of systemic diseases including hypertension,” study author Professor Francesco D’Aiuto of the UCL Eastman Dental Institute said in a press release. “This would mean that the link between gum disease and elevated blood pressure occurs long before a patient develops hypertension,” D’Aiuto added.

The oral-systemic connection

The oral-systemic link is the link between the health of your mouth and your overall health. A groundbreaking study from 1954 was the first to show that oral germs, such as those that cause gum disease, often enter the bloodstream and spread quickly throughout the body. This can happen through periodontal cleaning, tooth extractions, brushing your teeth, and even chewing food, among other things. The spread of these germs throughout the body can lead to chronic inflammation, a fiery process linked to many conditions including cardiovascular disease (CVD, also known as heart disease), diabetes and even some forms of cancer. Poor oral health has also been linked to dementia, rheumatoid arthritis, erectile dysfunction and even pregnancy complications.

Vascular inflammation can contribute to high blood pressure, among other things, by damaging the endothelium, the lining of blood vessels. Sometimes referred to as the “brain of the arteries,” the endothelium is only one cell thick, but plays a key role in regulating blood pressure by releasing substances involved in the relaxation and narrowing of the arteries. When the endothelium is damaged, its ability to maintain healthy blood pressure can be eroded.

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The life-saving importance of optimal dental care

The 2021 study complements several previous studies with similar findings, including a large one Study 2020 Association of bleeding gums (a common symptom of Parkinson’s disease) and systemic inflammation with high/uncontrolled blood pressure. The authors of this study suggest that people with difficult-to-control blood pressure should be screened for periodontal disease.

Two studies add to a growing understanding that in many cases, cardiovascular disease — including high blood pressure — can be a medical condition with a dental fix. For example, preventing and treating PD is a cost-effective strategy to reduce systemic inflammation and improve endothelial function, and may also help reduce patients’ risk of developing CVD in the first place.

A team approach to saving hearts, minds and smiles

“If dentists were able to screen for hypertension and refer to primary care, and medical professionals were able to screen for periodontal disease and refer to periodontists, it would improve the detection and treatment of both conditions, improve oral health, and reduce the burden of hypertension and its complications,” said D’Aiuto.

“Oral health strategies such as twice-daily brushing have been shown to be very effective in treating and preventing the most common oral diseases, and the results of our study show that they can also be an effective and affordable way to prevent high blood pressure,” he added. And here’s a powerful motivation for getting a dental check-up: Taking the best care of your teeth and gums can actually save your life. in the a study of nearly 6,000 older adults, those who had not seen a dentist in the previous year had a 50 percent higher mortality rate than those who went to the dentist twice or more a year! For more news and ideas to protect your arterial health – and your smile – check out our blog posts. A simple four-step plan to optimize your oral-systemic health” and The life-saving importance of having dental care at least twice a year.

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