This February are you ready for valentine kisses and for a heart that keeps tick-tocking for many years to come? It’s American Heart Month and the month of starry-eyed valentines. What better time to check in on ways to improve your heart health? You can prevent heart attack, relax your blood vessels, and lower your blood pressure when you follow these 7 steps to good dental health.
If you have gum disease, your risk for heart attack is nearly 50% higher.
Experts agree that heart disease may begin in the mouth. Evidence showing your dental health is linked to your heart health keeps stacking up:
- Oral bacteria have been found in atherosclerotic plaques
- Oral bacteria can lower blood pressure
- Gum disease increases your risk of heart attack by nearly 50%
- Flossing and brushing decreases your risk of heart disease, heart attacks, and stroke
- Flossing and brushing decreases your levels of inflammation, especially CRP (a powerful marker of heart disease and inflammation)
Heart disease is the number one killer in the United States. And nearly half of all adults in the US have heart disease.
When fatty deposits, or plaque, build up on the inner walls of arteries, it causes the “pipes” that move your blood to get stiff and narrow. Blood has a harder time moving, which causes high blood pressure. If blood can’t reach the heart easily, then heart cells die (heart attack) and the heart can’t pump blood effectively. And if plaque builds up heavily or gets dislodged, it can block blood flow completely. We can experience that as chest pain, a heart attack, or a stroke. With all of this in mind, let’s “just say no” to atherosclerosis!!!
Gum disease isn’t pretty either. Gum disease affects 42% of adults over the age of 30. When bad bacteria take over in the mouth, and trigger an immune attack, it causes gum disease. It might show up as mild bleeding gums or it could destroy bone and tissue, and cause you to lose teeth.
Warning signs of periodontal disease:
- Tender or bleeding gums
- Red or swollen gums
- Bad breath or bad taste that won’t go away
- Painful chewing
- Loose teeth
- Receding gums
Seven Steps to Tune Up Your Oral Health So Your Ticker Can Keep Going and Going
Step 1. Make your friendly bacteria work for you to lower blood pressure.
The friendly bacteria in your mouth- especially on your tongue- can lower your blood pressure. Good bacteria on your tongue work together with you to transform nitrate, found in certain vegetables, into a heart-healthy substance called nitric oxide.
When it was discovered, nitric oxide made a huge splash in the scientific community because it is a key molecule that lowers your blood pressure. It tells your blood vessels to relax so blood can flow more smoothly. Healthy levels of nitric oxide give you good blood pressure and lower your risk of heart attacks and strokes.
The bacteria living on your tongue contribute up to 25% of your total daily needs of this blood-pressure-lowering superstar, nitric oxide. When people kill off their oral microbes with antibiotic mouthwash, their blood pressure skyrockets. The system is so critical that the body even has a way of recycling one-fourth of unused nitrate from the gastrointestinal tract by sending it back to the mouth for… guess what? More production of nitric oxide!
This American Heart Month, join forces with your healthy oral bacteria to relax your blood vessels and lower your blood pressure. If you have high blood pressure, make sure to eat all natural, high-nitrate vegetables like beets or beet juice. Your bacteria will help you convert the nitrate to nitric oxide.
High-Nitrate Foods That Lower Blood Pressure Are:
- Rocket (rucola)
- Chinese cabbage
Step 2. Brush, Floss, and Stay on Top of Your Dental Health Visits
Step 3. Cut Out Sugar
Step 4. Eat Whole Foods, Especially Your Veggies
Step 5. Take Chewable Probiotics Containing Streptococcus salivarius
Step 6. Brush with Probiotic Toothpaste
Step 7. Test your Oral Microbiome
For a real life example of boosting oral health to fight heart disease, take a look at this case study where Dr. Ellie Campbell improves her patient’s hs-CRP with natural dental health treatments.
The bacteria living on your tongue that help lower your blood pressure are:
- Actinomyces species
- Granulicatella species
- Haemophilus species
- Neisseria species
- Veillonella species
Oral bacteria that have been found in atherosclerotic plaques:
- Fusobacterium nucleatum
- Prevotella gingivalis
- Strepotococcus sanguinis
- Treponema denticola
- Treponema forsythia
High-risk gum disease bacteria that may cause atherosclerosis:
- Aggregatibacter actinomycetemcomitans
- Fusobacterium nucleatum
- Pophyromonas gingivalis
- Tannerella forsythia
- Treponema denticola
Eating a healthy diet of vegetables, fruits, whole foods, and organic meats, together with exercise is the key to heart health. But don’t forget that your mouth has a big say in whether you have heart disease or not. Take care of your dental health and kiss your risk of heart disease goodbye!
Want to learn more? Check out my book, Heal Your Oral Microbiome.
Cass Nelson-Dooley, MS, is a researcher, author, educator, and laboratory consultant. She studied medicinal plants in the rain forests of Panama as a Fulbright Scholar and then launched a career in science and natural medicine. Early on, she studied ethnobotany, ethnopharmacology, and drug discovery at the University of Georgia and AptoTec, Inc. She joined innovators at Metametrix Clinical Laboratory as a medical education consultant helping clinicians use integrative and functional laboratory results in clinical practice. She owns Health First Consulting, LLC, a medical communications company with the mission to improve human health using the written word. Ms. Nelson-Dooley is an oral microbiome expert and author of Heal Your Oral Microbiome. She was a contributing author in Laboratory Evaluations for Integrative and Functional Medicine and Case Studies in Integrative and Functional Medicine. She has published case studies, book chapters, and journal articles about the oral microbiome, natural medicine, nutrition, laboratory testing, obesity, and osteoporosis.