You probably know you should watch your diet and keep fit to keep your heart healthy. But did you know you should be brushing and flossing your teeth regularly too?
Tooth decay and gum disease could put you at risk of heart disease and stroke. Here’s the science bit.
Link between tooth decay and heart attack
Experts had long suspected a link between poor oral hygiene and a higher risk of heart attack. But it wasn’t until 2010 that Bristol University dental scientist, Howard Jenkinson, discovered what it was:
Streptococcus bacteria are known to cause tooth plaque and gum disease. Normally they stay in your mouth. But Prof. Jenkins discovered if you have bleeding gums (a typical symptom of gum disease), Streptococcus could escape into your bloodstream and help form blood clots. Blood clots that travel into the heart or brain can cause cardiac arrest or stroke by blocking the flow of blood.
How bacteria cause blood clots
The bacterium has a protein on its surface (PadA) that forces platelets in the blood to clump around it. This shield protects the bacteria from the body’s natural immune system and antibiotics. Unfortunately, the platelets gathering together in this way can also cause small blood clots.
Reduce your risk of heart attack and stroke
While scientists are developing drugs that could stop potentially lethal blood clots from forming, the best way to heart attack and stroke is to lead a healthy lifestyle and look after your teeth and gums.
The British Heart Foundation has a plenty of advice on preventing heart disease, and here are our top tips at Perfect Profiles for looking after your heart and your smile.
Tips for good oral health
- Make your diet rich in vitamins and minerals by eating plenty of fresh fruit and vegetables
- Eat three meals a day and no more than two snacks, instead of grazing between meals
- Brush your teeth right before you go to bed and again before you eat or drink in the morning
- Clean between your teeth with interdental brushes or floss to prevent plaque build-up
- Use an anti-bacterial mouthwash
- Invest in an electric toothbrush – particularly if you have limited movement and struggle to clean your teeth
- Always tell your dentist about changes to your health – it could help them prevent gum disease
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