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International Study: Gum Disease Linked with Heart Disease Risk Factors
April 24, 2014

By Nancy Volkers
InteliHealth News Service

INTELIHEALTH - A large study has found more factors linked with heart disease risk among people with gum disease.

The study included more than 15,000 people from 39 countries. All of them had stable heart disease. They were part of a clinical trial to test a drug called darapladib. The drug blocks an enzyme that can lead to narrowing or hardening of arteries.

Of the people in the study, about 80% were male, and 78% were white. Nearly 70% were current or former smokers.

About 40% of people in the study had lost at least half of their teeth. Periodontal (gum) disease is a common reason for gums to bleed. If it is allowed to get worse, it can damage the tissues and bone of the jaw. This can lead to tooth loss.

People were asked how many teeth they had and whether their gums bled when they brushed. Researchers also took blood samples. They measured cholesterol, blood-sugar and C-reactive protein (CRP). High levels of CRP mean that there is inflammation in the body.

People also had their waist size and blood pressure checked. They answered questions about their educational levels, stress levels, alcohol use and exercise.

People with tooth loss were more likely than others to have factors linked with a higher risk of heart disease:

  • Higher blood glucose
  • Higher LDL ("bad cholesterol")
  • Higher blood pressure
  • Greater waist size
  • Higher levels of CRP

Tooth loss also was linked with less education, higher alcohol use and more stress at work.

Gum bleeding was linked with higher blood pressure and higher LDL.) People with gum bleeding also tended to have less education, drink more alcohol and have more stress at work, at home and about finances.

The authors say this is the largest study of its kind to assess gum disease symptoms in people with heart disease. The study results show more heart-disease risk factors in people with fewer teeth and bleeding gums. They say the findings suggest common risk factors for both gum disease and heart disease.

There were wide variations in data among people from different countries. For example, 69% of study participants from Slovakia had fewer than 15 teeth, compared with only 11% from India.

The study appears in the April issue of the European Journal of Preventive Cardiology.

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