As with most cardiovascular diseases, a heart attack occurs when one or more of the coronary arteries becomes blocked. An impending heart attack will often be signalled by a sensation of tightness or squeezing in the centre of the chest. While one of the most significant risk factors for the condition is being overweight, growing research is pointing to bacteria as a potential culprit. As bacteria enter the blood and travel to the heart, they can cause potentially fatal infections of the organ’s inner lining. Now, a new study has identified one common condition that could increase the risk of germs entering the bloodstream, leading to a heart attack.
Periodontitis, also commonly known as gum disease, is an infection of the gum which targets the soft tissue and the bone that supports the teeth.
An early sign of the condition is bleeding of the gums during teeth brushing, which usually occurs during gingivitis – one of the milder forms of periodontitis.
Although bleeding of the gums is relatively common, it shouldn’t be ignored. Periodontitis in its early stages can still be easily reversed.
However, more advanced and severe forms of the disease can set the stage for other serious ailments.
Furthermore, some oral surveys have indicated that at any one time, one in four adults have moderate to severe periodontal disease.
Signs and symptoms of the condition include:
Swollen or puffy gums
Bright red, dusky red, purplish gums
Gums that feel tender when touched
Pink-tinged toothbrush after brush
Spitting out blood when brushing or flossing your teeth
Pus between the teeth and gums.A new study, conducted in Sweden, included 1,578 participants aged 62 years on average, who underwent dental examinations between 2010 and 2014.
Of these patients, 985 were classified as healthy, while 489 had moderate periodontitis and 113 had severe periodontitis.
During a follow up period of 6.2 years, there were 205 primary endpoint events, defined as all-cause death, non-fatal heart attack or stoke, or severe heart failure.
Researchers observed that participants with periodontitis at baseline had 49 percent higher odds of the primary endpoints listed above.
Doctor Ferrannini said: “The risk of experiencing a cardiovascular event during follow-up was higher in participants with periodontitis, increasing in parallel with the severity.
“This was particularly apparent in patients who had already experienced myocardial infarction.
“We postulate that the damage of periodontal tissues in people with gum disease may facilitate the transfer or germs into the bloodstream.
“This could accelerate harmful changes to the blood vessels of germs into the bloodstream. This could accelerate harmful changes to the blood vessels and/or enhance systemic inflammation that is harmful to the vessels.”
The deposit of germs in the lining of the heart is referred to as endocarditis, and is usually triggered by bacteria, fungi, or other germs entering the body through the mouth.
During the early stages of periodontitis, gum inflammation caused by bacteria can occur in as little as five days, making it crucial to address symptoms as soon as they arise.
The germs associated with the condition consist mainly of gram-negative anaerobic bacteria.
The prevention of the Heart Attacks comes down mainly to lifestyle habits, notably the cessation of tobacco use, reduction in salt intakes, and regular physical activities.
Doctor Ferrannini concluded: “Gum disease was linked with an elevated likelihood of cardiovascular disease or death.”