New study reveals gum disease threatens heart health

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gum-disease(NaturalHealth365)  As the American population ages, atrial fibrillation rates (arrhythmia or irregular heartbeat) have risen steadily, causing some researchers to deem the condition the “new cardiovascular disease epidemic of the 21st century.” Some experts predict that as many as 12 million people in the United States will have atrial fibrillation (“a-fib”) by 2030.  Now, it appears that a common condition – gum disease – may also play a role.

Atrial fibrillation can significantly raise the risk of stroke and heart attack.  Alarmingly, a just-published Japanese study highlights a connection between gum disease and increased risk for a-fib.  Learn more about how poor oral health may affect the rhythm of the single most important muscle in your body – your heart.

Study suggests gum disease worsens heart damage

The study, which was conducted at Hiroshima University and published in JACC: Clinical Electrophysiology, involved 76 participants with atrial fibrillation.  Researchers reported that they found a link between gum disease, or periodontitis, and inflammation and scarring (fibrosis) in the heart’s left atrium – a pair of conditions that can lead to atrial fibrillation.

Not only that, but the team found that the most severe cases of gum disease were linked with the worst scarring and inflammation – suggesting that inflamed gums can exacerbate inflammation and heart disease.  And, while the research didn’t prove that gum disease definitively causes heart disease, the two appear strongly linked.

The researchers expressed hope that periodontitis would be a lower-cost, easily modifiable target among risk factors for A-fib.  “One of our goals is to … promote dental specialists’ participation in comprehensive atrial fibrillation management,” said study co-author Yukiko Nakano, MD, PhD, a professor of cardiovascular medicine at Hiroshima University’s Graduate School of Biomedical and Health Sciences.

Earlier studies attest to link between gum disease and cardiovascular problems

The new study is not the first to identify a link between poor oral health and heart disease.  According to the Heart Foundation, multiple studies have shown that bacteria from inflamed gums can enter the bloodstream, where they increase systemic inflammation and raise the risk of blood clots and heart attacks.

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The Foundation notes that links also exist between gum disease and stroke.  A recent study of fatty deposits from the carotid arteries of stroke patients revealed this disturbing finding: when inflamed gums are present, bacteria from the mouth were responsible for a shocking 40 percent of the bacteria that causes the deposits.  Clearly, periodontal inflammation and disease takes a toll on cardiovascular health.  Fortunately, you can reduce your risk.

Support healthy heart rhythm with natural techniques

Obesity, coronary artery disease, high blood pressure, and physical inactivity can all contribute to the likelihood of developing a-fib, which features symptoms of fatigue, heart palpitations, dizziness, and shortness of breath.  While a-fib requires treatment by a medical professional, a variety of natural interventions and lifestyle strategies may help to prevent and manage it.

To support heart health, many integrative healthcare providers advise diets centered around plenty of fiber-rich (organic) fruits, vegetables, and legumes, judicious amounts of high-quality protein, antioxidant spices, and healthy fats from coconut oil, nuts, and seeds.  Eliminate or sharply reduce alcohol consumption, banish cigarettes and tobacco products, and avoid excessive consumption of caffeine.

In addition, wherever possible, minimize exposure to environmental toxins, harsh synthetic cleaners, and air pollution, which have been shown to trigger a-fib.

You can manage stress naturally through mindfulness meditation, yoga, Tai Chi, acupressure, or biofeedback.  And acupuncture is believed to be particularly effective in addressing a-fib.  In fact, a review published last year showed that acupuncture sessions of up to 20 minutes may help treat a-fib by increasing circulation, cutting inflammation, and calming the nervous system.

Some integrative healthcare practitioners recommend herbs and supplementary nutrients – such as barberry (berberine), hawthorn extracts, and omega-3 fatty acids.  Before supplementing, consult your integrative doctor for guidance.  And talk with your doctor about embarking on an appropriate program of aerobic exercise, such as walking, swimming, or cycling.

Prevent gum disease naturally

Why, exactly, is poor oral health so detrimental to cardiovascular health?  The problem starts with the accumulation of dental plaque, which can turn into more difficult-to-remove tartar.  Tartar, in turn, causes inflammation around the teeth.  And inflamed gums, if untreated, can progress to periodontal disease, which in turn causes bleeding gums, infections, pain, and eventual loss of teeth and erosion of bone.

To remove plaque, brush your teeth at least twice daily with a soft-bristled brush.  Daily flossing and regular checkups with a good biological dental office are part of the equation as well – a fact that should surprise nobody.  Some biological dentists recommend using a toothpaste that contains tea tree oil, which has been found to work better than chlorhexidine to reduce inflammation.

Finally, the ancient technique of oil pulling – swishing with coconut oil for 10 – 15 minutes – can help remove plaque while supporting the health of teeth and gums.

The American Heart Association reports that a person with a-fib is five times more likely to have a stroke than someone with no history of heart disease.  Meanwhile, The American Dental Association declares that 42 percent of Americans over 30 who still retain their teeth have some form of periodontal disease – which now has been associated with a-fib.

When you “do the math,” the importance of protecting against these conditions becomes abundantly clear.  With some simple lifestyle decisions, you can do exactly that.

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