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Heart disease? Then watch out for your gums

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People with heart problems should pay special attention to the health of their gums. Gum disease, or periodontitis, increases the chances of a heart attack.

Even people who don’t have heart disease—but are in the age range when heart problems are more likely—shouldn’t be ignoring unhealthy gums, say researchers from Harvard University.

Periodontitis is a big warning that the person is at high risk of developing cardiovascular disease. The disease causes inflammation, and this can affect the health of the arteries, and eventually lead to heart disease.

The researchers used PET and CT scans on 304 people to gauge their level of inflammation in the arteries and gums, and 13 of them who had the worst periodontitis developed major heart problems, including heart attacks and stroke, over the four years of follow-up.

But people who suffered bone loss from a previous bout of periodontitis that had since healed weren’t at risk.

(Source: Journal of Periodontology, 2021; doi: 10.1002/JPER.19-0441)

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