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Gum Disease May Increase 'Silent' Stroke Risk
August 29, 2013

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - Gum (periodontal) disease may be linked with an increased risk of one type of stroke, a Japanese study finds.

The study included 110 adults. All were between the ages of 27 and 76. They had dental exams and periodontal (gum) exams. Each person also had a MRI scan of the brain.

The MRIs were analyzed for empty spaces in the brain tissue called lacunar infarctions. These are sites where a blood vessel has clogged, causing a stroke. These strokes usually have no symptoms. But having several lacunar infarctions may lead to problems with thinking and memory, and eventually to dementia.

Of the 110 adults, 61 (55%) had at least one lacunar infarction. Nineteen (17%) had 7 or more. Researchers found that people who had deeper periodontal pockets also tended to have more lacunar infarctions. A periodontal pocket is an area where the gum has pulled away from the tooth. The deeper the pocket is, the more serious the gum disease is.

Compared with people who did not have lacunar infarctions, those with them also tended to be older, to weigh less, to get more exercise and to have high blood pressure or diabetes.

Other studies have found more exercise to be protective against stroke. The researchers note that no study has compared exercise frequency with brain MRI results, however. They also note that their study is much smaller than studies that have shown protective effects.

High blood pressure was the strongest factor linked with an increased risk of lacunar infarctions. Those with high blood pressure had 3 times the risk of this type of stroke, compared with people who had normal blood pressure.

The study appears in the August issue of the journal Gerontology.

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