Add Toothbrushing to List of Preventable Risk Factors for Heart Disease

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Poor oral hygiene practices increase the risk of heart disease by 70%, according to a new study published in the journal BMJ. Brushing teeth at twice a day can decrease the risk, including reducing the chances of heart attack.

Researchers in England analyzed data from almost 12,000 people taking part in the Scottish Health Survey. This study examined lifestyle habits such as smoking, physical activity, and oral health routines, such as visiting the dentist and brushing teeth.

After adjusting for other heart disease risk factors, such as obesity, smoking, and family history, the researchers found that those who reported brushing their teeth twice a day had a 70% reduced risk for cardiovascular disease.

Read: Brush Up on Your Dental Care Knowledge

Poor oral hygiene and gum or periodontal disease causes inflammation in the body, including an increase in blood markers such as fibrinogen and C-reactive protein.

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Fibrinogen is a protein produced by the liver that plays a role in blood clotting. Excess levels of fibrinogen increases the risk of heart attack or stroke due to a blood clot. C-reactive protein is also produced by the liver and a marker of inflammation. The American Heart Association reports that studies have shown that higher levels of CRP in the body greatly increase the risk of heart attack, sudden cardiac death, and peripheral artery disease.

“Inflammation plays an important role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis,” the authors write. “Markers of low grade inflammation have been consistently associated with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.”

"Compared to things like smoking and poor diet, which are obviously the main risk factors for heart disease, we are not claiming this is in the same league," said Professor Richard Watt from University College London. "But ... even after controlling for all those things there is a still a relationship between this very simple measure of tooth brushing and heart condition.”

Read: One in Eight Americans Have Two Risk Factors for Heart Disease

Heart disease is the leading killer of men and women in the United States and in Europe.

Source: "Toothbrushing, inflammation, and risk of cardio vascular disease - results from the Scottish Health Survey"
Published 27 May 2010, doi:10.1136/bmj.c2451
BMJ 2010;340:c2451

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