Oral Hygiene is Key to Heart Health

toothbrushWe all do things to try and prevent heart disease, right? Maintaining a healthy diet and getting exercise are no-brainers, but did you know there is something else simple you could do to maintain your heart health? Good oral hygiene can actually have an impact on the health of your heart.

It’s no secret that bacteria live in our mouths. Saliva is able to flush away some of it, but we get rid of most by brushing and flossing our teeth. This is why most dentists recommend finishing anything sugary all at once instead of throughout the day — so you can get rid of all that bacteria rather than let it sit on your teeth. Those with poor oral hygiene or gum disease run the risk of that bacteria entering the bloodstream. Some of this bacteria has been found in cholesterol plaques on the walls of coronary arteries, which suggests that they contribute to cholesterol blockages.

Poor Oral Hygiene Possibly Linked to Cholesterol Blockages

According to the American Academy of Periodontology, people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from coronary artery disease than those without the disease. This goes to show that routine trips to your dentist could benefit more than your smile. You should definitely see your doctor or dentist if you experience any of the following:

  • Bleeding, red, or swollen gums
  • Sensitivity to heat and cool
  • Color changes in your teeth
  • Loose teeth
  • Gums pulling away from teeth

For more information, consult this article written by Dr. Robert Schwab.

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Heart Health Advice: Why is it Confusing?

Blood PressureThe information we have on preventing heart disease is boundless, yet it still responsible for one in every four deaths. How can this be? Despite having abundant information, our guidelines for using that information is quite inconsistent. For example, the risk factors for someone who hasn’t already had a heart attack are diverse, making it challenging to identify how and when to educate someone who might be at risk. So, how can you be sure you’re following the right guidelines?

The truth is, the guidelines are different for everyone. Your own habits and history define your risk of heart disease. However, here are a few of the biggest arguments:

  1. Aspirin – According to the FDA, the intestinal bleeding and stomach problems that might occur in individuals who don’t already have heart disease make aspirin too risky to be an option to prevent heart attacks. On the other hand, the AHA and ACC believe that the benefit of preventing the first heart attack outweighs the risk of bleeding strokes. These organizations advise patients at higher risk of heart issues to use low-dose aspirin preventatively.
  2. Blood Pressure – We are all aware that hypertension puts you at risk for heart disease and stroke. However, there is argument over adding anti-hypertensive medications to existing care programs in order to bring blood pressure levels below the recommended 140-90 mm Hg. Researchers have found that patients who are able to bring blood pressure this low can reduce their risk of early death from heart disease as well as all other causes. Primary care doctors are less likely to recommend this route as too low blood pressure can lead to fainting, dizziness, and falls.

What they do agree on:

Keep blood pressure under control – Avoid a salty diet and exercise regularly to maintain normal blood pressure levels.

Don’t smoke – Smoking puts you at higher risk for coronary heart disease and also decreases your tolerance for exercise.

Keep cholesterol low – Make sure you know your good fats from bad fats to keep your blood pressure as low as possible. Consider statins to treat high blood pressure.

For more on heart disease guidelines, see this article from Time.



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Young Swimmer Survives After Not Taking Breath for 25 Minutes

Swim LessonAn eleven-year-old at a swimming lesson was recently saved by class lifeguards, who noticed the boy had fallen unconscious and rescued him from the water. Cade Ewington had suffered cardiac arrest, leaving him face down in the water. After being pulled to safety, paramedics had difficulty restarting his heart and Cade actually didn’t take a breath for 25 minutes — meaning he was medically dead.

It turns out that Cade had a very rare heart rhythm condition known as Long QT, which causes difficulty with the electrical activity of the heart. His heart went into a sporadic rhythm called ventricular fibrillation, meaning that his heart was not able to pump blood. Luckily, Cade was revived and suffered no brain damage after the trauma despite being unresponsive for so long. Doctors attributed a lot of Cade’s luck to the immediate care provided by the lifeguards. If they hadn’t been so well trained in CPR, Cade may have had permanent issues following the accident. Instead, he was fitted for an implantable cardioverter defibrillator (ICD), which will restart his heart if he suffers another cardiac arrest.

Proper Reactions Saved His Life

The ICD is battery-powered and keeps track of a person’s heart rate – if an abnormal heart rhythm is detected, the device will deliver an electric shock to restore it to normal. Batteries in the device will need to be changed every eight years, and it sends results to the hospital each night. In truth, it was only a matter of time until Cade suffered cardiac arrest due to his condition — now that he is diagnosed and fitted with an ICD he is much safer.

For more on Cade’s story, read the full article at Daily Mail.

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