The Hidden Causes of Heart Disease

Bronitsky Family Dentistry

At Bronitsky Family Dentistry, we remain committed to protecting our patients oral and overall health. That means Dr. Bronitsky not only provides exceptional dental care, but also helps to inform patients about what potential risks their health could face due to the effects of tooth decay and gum disease.

Each year in the U.S., over 600,000 people die from heart disease, more than any other disease, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. While most people associate diet and exercise to their risk for heart disease, there are a number of seemingly unrelated habits and conditions that can contribute to your risk. From how often you brush to how you sleep at night, let’s take a look at some of the lesser-known causes of heart disease.

Gum Disease

Scientific evidence from both the American Dental Association and the American Heart Association have found compelling links that connect gum disease to an increased risk for heart disease. While researchers remain uncertain about what links these otherwise disconnected diseases, inflammation remains the most likely culprit.

Gum disease is a chronic infection that causes gum tissue to become swollen and inflamed. This inflammation leads to the systematic destruction of the underlying bone structure and tissue that holds our teeth into place. Given enough time untreated, severe gum disease will completely eradicate the foundation of your teeth, leading to permanent tooth loss.

Researchers believe that the same bacteria responsible for gum disease can enter the bloodstream through the tiny cracks that develop in our gum tissue. That bacteria then travels throughout our bloodstream until it reaches the heart, where oral plaque deposits can begin to accumulate in our heart valves. Once embedded, oral plaque begins to cause inflammation to develop in the heart, leading to the development of heart disease.

Fortunately, you significantly lower your risk for both gum disease and heart disease by practicing quality oral hygiene at home – brushing at least twice a day and flossing daily – and by scheduling regular exams and cleanings with our team at Bronitsky Family Dentistry.

Too Little Movement

Study after study have shown the incredible benefits regular exercise provides the body by doing everything from helping to alleviate stress to improving our focus and ability to learn. The opposite is also true, as a growing amount of research has shown the risks associated by getting too little exercise. But did you know that you could still increase your risk for heart disease simply by sitting at your desk all day, even if you exercise daily?

One 2014 study that examined how living a sedentary lifestyle could impact an individual’s blood pressure discovered a strong connection between too little movement throughout the day and an increased risk for higher blood pressure. The findings of this study were still confirmed true independently of how much moderate or even vigorous exercise an individual did a day.

Another study conducted in 2015 came to a similar connection, finding that sitting down for the majority of the day can increase an individual’s risk for heart disease, diabetes and stroke – even if you exercise an hour a day.

The key to lowering your risk for heart disease is simply to get up more often. Digital tools like a Fitbit or changes to your daily habits – like getting up to walk around the office at least once an hour – can make a difference helping you get up and out more often.

Sleep Apnea

A common condition, sleep apnea occurs when the tissue located in the back of the throat relaxes during sleep, causing a blockage to occur that cuts of air to the brain. To get the flow of oxygen restored, the brain shocks the body out of sleep, thereby causing the tissue to tighten and the airway to reopen. These moments of waking and falling back to sleep can happen so quickly that most patients with sleep apnea never realize they even happen. But throughout the course of a night, a patient with sleep apnea can have dozens of episodes an hour.

Waking throughout the night in this way places an incredible strain on the body, especially the heart. That’s why patients who suffer from sleep apnea have a higher risk for heart disease, stroke and hypertension.

Symptoms of sleep apnea can include daytime drowsiness, trouble focusing at work or at school and irritability.

The treatment of sleep apnea has become increasingly common for dentists who already specialize in all things related to the mouth and jaw. If you suffer from the symptoms listed above or is you snore loudly at night, talk with Dr. Bronitsky during your next appointment about how to get tested for sleep apnea. Treatment options could range from a CPAP – continuous positive airway pressure – machine to an oral appliance that’s similar to a mouth guard.