When it comes to preventing heart disease – a disease that kills more women than all forms of cancer combined — scientists are paying close attention to bacteria that grow in the mouth and their link to cardiovascular health.
Harvard Medical School reports that bacteria that cause gum disease have been found in plaque in arteries and elsewhere in the body. Did you know that plaque build-up can lead to a heart attack?
Oral bacteria may also harm blood vessels or cause blood clots by releasing toxins, according to a Harvard Medical School report. The immune system’s response to these toxins could harm vessel walls or make blood clot more easily. As a result, inflammation that begins in the mouth may rev up inflammation throughout the body, including in the arteries, where it can lead to a heart attack or stroke.
Taking care of your dental hygiene and health – especially your gums – may help keep your heart healthy. Brushing, flossing, and getting regular dental cleanings all may help prevent cardiovascular problems.
However, experts emphasize that the keyword is may. Cardiologists and periodontists have long debated the link between dental health and heart disease and the issue still isn’t completely resolved, according to the American Heart Association.
Because typical risk factors are not always beneficial in predicting who will have a heart attack, particularly in women, some doctors are trying to improve and assess cardiovascular health is by using EBT heart scans.
The EBT heart scan is an effective tool for finding and measuring plaque in coronary arteries. It can also determine if that plaque is growing or shrinking over time, allowing your doctors to adjust treatment accordingly without invasive procedures.
A MESA Heart Study showed that two-thirds of women who were at highest risk for heart attacks were actually considered low-risk when using conventional risk factors. However, when you consider the presence or absence of coronary calcium as found and measured by an EBT Heart Scan, these women were re-classified appropriately based on their real risk.
Dr. Bill Blanchet of Front Range Preventative Imaging in Boulder recommends that women over the age of 50 have an EBT heart scan because it is finding the disease that is more likely to kill them than any other.
After a scan, treatment can be made based on the presence or absence of coronary disease, or plaque, with the goal of doing a better job of finding who needs to be treated and how best to treat them. Follow up scans can track progress.