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Are Tooth Brushing Habits Tied to Heart Health?
While we might not like to think about it, our mouths are filled with bacteria, some helpful and some harmful. Sometimes harmful bacteria can lead to gum infection, gum inflammation and tooth decay. These problems, although localized to the mouth, may affect other organ systems, including your heart and blood vessels.
Numerous studies have shown that people with poor gum health are more likely to develop heart disease. Many believe this association results from increased inflammation throughout the body that occurs in people with poorer oral hygiene.
New research findings
Last week, new research was presented at the American Heart Association’s Annual Scientific Sessions in Chicago. The findings suggested that brushing your teeth for at least two minutes and at least twice a day was associated with a lower risk of heart attack, heart failure, or stroke. In fact, the risk was reduced by more than 30 percent when compared to brushing less often and for less time.
Unfortunately, because of the way this study was designed, it is not possible to know with certainty that better oral hygiene directly led to better heart health. It is possible that those who took better care of their mouths also took better care of their heart, and that resulted in better outcomes.
One thing is clear though. Attending to your oral health by brushing regularly may have health benefits that extend beyond your mouth to include your heart and blood vessels. That seems like a big reward for little effort.
In addition to focusing more on your mouth, don’t forget there are other heart-healthy habits you can adopt.
- Focus on a nutritious diet.
- Be sure to exercise, with a target of 150 minutes each week, though more is fine too.
- If you smoke, quit.
- If you have conditions like high blood pressure, high cholesterol, or diabetes, work with your doctor to manage your conditions.
All of these can improve your heart health, give you more energy, and help you feel your best. For more health tips, visit our Lifespan Living health and wellness blog.
If you have heart issues, we can help. Learn more about the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute.
Herbert D. Aronow, MD, MPH
Dr. Herbert Aronow is an interventional cardiologist, director of Interventional Cardiology at the Lifespan Cardiovascular Institute and director of the cardiac catheterization laboratories at Rhode Island and The Miriam hospitals. He specializes in diagnosing and treating cardiovascular disease, and performs coronary and vascular interventions.