Heart attack: The sign in your mouth that could increase your risk

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Heart attack happens when a blockage in a person’s coronary artery causes part of their heart muscle to be starved of blood and oxygen. Early treatment to get the blood flowing to the damaged part of a person’s heart muscle can save a person’s life and limit the amount of permanent damage to their heart muscle. It is well understood that poor lifestyle decisions can increase a person’s likelihood of having a heart attack. Recent research identified a link between tooth loss and cardiovascular disease.

Oral disease is an inflammatory disease that frequently causes tooth loss due to the breakdown of periodontal tissue.

The periodontium is the specialised tissues that both surround and support the teeth.

The causal relationship between oral disease and cardiovascular disease is not well known. To shed a light on this area, researchers conducted a secondary analysis of the 2014 Behaviour Risk Factor Surveillance System that looked at tooth loss not caused by trauma, as well as cardiovascular disease, including heart attack, angina and/or stroke.

The study, presented at the American College of Cardiology Middle East Conference 2019 together with the 10th Emirates Cardiac Society Congress, included 316,588 participants from the United States and territories between the ages of 40-79.

Overall eight percent were edentulous (had no teeth) and 13 per cent had cardiovascular disease.

The percentage of people who had cardiovascular disease and were edentulous was 28 per cent, compared to only seven percent who had cardiovascular disease but did not have missing teeth.

In addition to edentulous participants, those who reported having one to five missing teeth or six or more, but not all, missing teeth were also more likely to develop cardiovascular disease, even after adjusting for other factors such as body mass index, age, race, alcohol consumption, smoking, diabetes and dental visits.

“Our results support that there is a relationship between dental health and cardiovascular health,” said Hamad Mohammed Qabha, MBBS, lead author of the study and Chief Medical and Surgical Intern at Imam Muhammad Ibn Saud Islamic University.

Adding: “If a person’s teeth fall out, there may be other underlying health concerns. Clinicians should be recommending that people in this age group receive adequate oral health care to prevent the diseases that lead to tooth loss in the first place and as potentially another way of reducing risk of future cardiovascular disease.”

Other risk factors

According to the British Heart Foundation, the following lifestyle factors can increase a person’s chances of developing coronary heart disease and having a heart attack:

  • High blood pressure
  • High cholesterol
  • Diabetes
  • Smoking
  • Being overweight
  • Not doing enough physical activity

“The more risk factors you have the higher your risk,” explained the health body.

Fortunately, living a healthy lifestyle can significantly lower the risk of a heart attack.

The NHS recommends avoiding foods containing high levels of saturated fat as as they increase levels of bad cholesterol in a person’s blood – a dangerous precursor to heart disease.

Foods high in saturated fat include:

  • Meat pies
  • Sausages and fatty cuts of meat
  • Butter
  • Ghee (a type of butter often used in Indian cooking)
  • Lard
  • Cream
  • Hard cheese
  • Cakes and biscuits
  • Foods that contain coconut or palm oil

Instead, opt for unsaturated fats, as the health body explained: “Eating a small amount of unsaturated fat will increase the level of good cholesterol and help reduce any blockage in your arteries.”

Foods high in unsaturated fat include:

  • Oily fish
  • Avocados
  • Nuts and seeds
  • Sunflower, rapeseed and olive oil

Taking  a certain supplement daily may also reduce a person’s risk.

What are the symptoms of a heart attack?

According to the NHS, symptoms of a heart attack can include:

  • Chest pain – a sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of a person’s chest
  • Pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is travelling from a person’s chest to their arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and abdomen
  • Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
  • Sweating
  • Shortness of breath
  • Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
  • An overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack)
  • Coughing or wheezing

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