By Janis Jibrin, M.S., R.D., Best Life lead nutritionist
For years now, scientists have known that periodontal disease increases the risk for heart disease. Now, a new study in the Journal of the American Heart Association shows that if you take care of your gums you can reduce a major risk factor for heart disease and stroke.
A research team led by Columbia University in New York City examined the mouths of 420 middle-aged men and women for periodontal disease. (Periodontal disease is caused when bacterial plaque on the teeth move into the gums causing inflammation. This can cause the gums to pull away from the teeth, causing “pockets” that become infected with bacteria, and eventually lead to tooth loss.) Researchers collected gum bacterial samples and used ultrasound to measure the thickness of the carotid arteries, which supply the brain with blood. Artery thickness is a marker for stroke and heart disease; if the carotid arteries get clogged with plaque, you can bet the coronary arteries leading to the heart are clogging as well.
Three years later, people whose oral health improved (read: they had fewer bacteria linked to heart disease in their mouth) had a much slower rate of carotid artery thickening than those whose periodontal disease was worse or remained the same. It doesn’t take much plaque to have devastating consequences. Picture this: a 0.033-millimeter-per-year increase in carotid artery thickness doubles the risk of heart disease and heart attack. In this study, people with gums that deteriorated, developed, on average, a 0.1-mm increase, meaning their heart disease risk shot up six-fold.
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With serious health problems like obesity and type 2 diabetes on the rise in the U.S., the number one cause of death in our nation remains cardiovascular disease from heart attack and stroke. This is typically a result of atherosclerosis, which is a condition in which the walls of the artery become diseased and block blood flow to the heart.
According to recent calculations, half of all adult Americans have abnormal lipids, or cholesterol levels. As for what the best solution is, Dr. Eliot Brinton – director of the National Lipid Association – suggests that while cholesterol medications, or statins, are the most common answer, many patients are hesitant to comply.
In fact, recent studies indicate that nearly 75 percent of new statin users stop therapy by the end of the first year. This is especially concerning considering statin adherence often leads to an increased risk of adverse cardiovascular outcomes that contribute to the rising costs of heart disease, which is expected to reach $818 billion by 2030.
According to Brinton, statins are the number one class of drugs in the U.S. in terms of cost and sales. “We use statins because they are very affective at lowering levels of the bad cholesterol and reduce cardiovascular events by one-third.”
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention has released new information regarding our nation’s health. According to new estimates, almost 54 percent of Americans diagnosed with hypertension don’t have the condition under control despite the majority receiving healthcare.
As reported by Health.org, to gather this information the CDC analyzed the nation’s blood pressure health using data from a National Health Examination Survey taken between 2003 and 2010.
As a result, the CDC estimates that the prevalence of hypertension among adults at that time was more than 30 percent, or nearly 67 million Americans. Additionally, of the 53 percent who didn’t have their blood pressure in control, 39 percent were unaware they had hypertension, 16 percent knew but took no medicine to treat the condition, and 45 percent were taking medications that were not bettering the condition.
Why is this news concerning? CDC director Dr. Thomas Frieden has deemed hypertension “public-health enemy number two,” only behind tobacco use.
To have hypertension means to have elevated or high blood pressure. A disease often known as the “silent killer” due to it being asymptomatic, hypertension typically leads to fatal stroke or heart attack. High blood pressure is defined as having a consistently elevated arterial blood pressure. Furthermore, obesity has been strongly associated with hypertension and heart disease.
Financially speaking, the CDC estimates that high blood pressure costs our nation close to $130 million a year in healthcare bills. And certainly more concerning, Frieden points out, is the fact that hypertension claims approximately 1,000 lives a day.
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The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention released new frightening statistics for the obesity rates across the country. Obesity rates in America are climbing rapidly, with an estimated 35.7% of the adult population classified as such. The South has the highest obesity rate and the Midwest is right behind them. Citizens living in Northeast and West have the lowest obesity rates.
As reported by BizJournal.com, Massachusetts is the third lowest obesity rate state. However, Massachusetts should not celebrate their bronze medal in these results. Massachusetts may have a low obesity rate compared to 47 states, but that does not mean there isn’t a problem internally with the state. One-third of Massachusetts children and two-thirds of the adult population are either obese or overweight.
Cheryl Bartlett, director of the Massachusetts Bureau of Community Health and Prevention, speaks out on the state’s health issue. “On a national level, (Massachusetts) looks pretty good. But we’ve got a long way to go.” Bartlett and her organization have a goal for the state of Massachusetts. They want to see obesity levels decrease by 5% within the next 15 years. Plus, a reduction in type 2 diabetes and high cholesterol cases. However, no specific plan to reach that was shared.
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