Bad oral health can increase heart attack risk, study finds

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Maintaining good oral hygiene is crucial, not just for a bright smile, but it could also be essential for protecting your heart.

Researchers from Tokyo Medical and Dental University (TMDU) in Japan have found a significant connection between the health of our mouths and our hearts.

In a study published in the International Journal of Oral Science, the researchers discovered that a common oral pathogen might interfere with the heart’s recovery process after a heart attack caused by coronary heart disease.

Heart attacks happen when the coronary arteries, which supply the heart muscle with necessary nutrients and oxygen, get blocked.

This blockage results in the heart muscle being starved of essential supplies, leading to the death of cardiac cells, known as myocytes.

To combat further damage, these cardiac myocytes kickstart a process known as autophagy. Autophagy is essentially the cell’s way of cleaning out damaged parts to prevent them from causing further problems in the heart.

The focus of the TMDU study was on a particular oral bacterium known as Porphyromonas gingivalis.

This bacterium is commonly found in the mouth but has also been detected at heart attack sites. The precise way this bacterium affected the heart was not well understood until now.

The researchers conducted an experiment where they modified Porphyromonas gingivalis to produce a version that lacked gingipain, a key component known for its destructive capabilities.

Previous research had shown that gingipain could prevent cells from undergoing a form of programmed cell death that helps in recovery post-injury. By using this modified bacterium, the team was able to infect both cardiac myocytes and mice to observe the effects.

The findings were quite revealing. Cells infected with the modified bacterium that lacked gingipain had a much higher survival rate compared to those infected with the normal, or wild-type, bacterium.

Furthermore, mice infected with the wild-type bacterium showed more severe effects of myocardial infarction than those infected with the mutant bacterium.

A deeper examination showed that gingipain disrupts the fusion of autophagosomes and lysosomes, two cellular structures essential for autophagy.

In mice, this disruption resulted in enlarged cardiac myocytes and the buildup of proteins that should have been cleared from the cells, which is crucial for protecting the heart muscle.

These findings imply that an infection with Porphyromonas gingivalis, especially strains that produce gingipain, leads to a buildup of autophagosomes. This buildup can cause cell dysfunction, death, and eventually, cardiac rupture.

Given how significant the impact of Porphyromonas gingivalis is on heart recovery post-heart attack, tackling this common oral infection could be critical in reducing the risk of deadly heart complications.

This research not only highlights the link between oral health and overall well-being but also underscores the importance of regular dental care to maintain not just oral health but also a healthy heart.

These insights into the interconnectedness of oral and heart health suggest a new avenue for preventing serious heart conditions by managing oral health. It is a reminder of how our body systems are interconnected and how maintaining one aspect of our health can influence overall wellbeing.

If heart health is a concern, it’s worth noting that other studies have highlighted potential treatments for heart conditions and strategies for reducing the risk of heart-related incidents.

For those interested, looking into additional research on heart and oral health could provide further beneficial information.

If you care about gum health, please read studies about an important causes of tooth decay and gum disease, and common tooth disease that may increase risks of dementia.

For more information about gum health, please see recent studies about mouthwash that may increase your tooth damage, and results showing this diet could help treat gum disease.

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