DISCLOSURE: Noelle Copeland RDH is an Oral Care Specialist and Dental Consultant who provides content for Brilliant Oral Care and Baby Buddy.
The heart is an amazingly complex powerhouse of strength, emotion, and regulation. It has been pumping blood through your body since you were still inside your birth mother. Never once stopping to take a vacation or check out for a few hours to get some rest. The heart keeps going, doing its job, until one day it does stop working, and when that happens, everything else ceases to continue.
When you think about how powerful that is, it makes you wonder, “what am I doing to be good to my heart?” I know I don’t always do my best when it comes to my heart health in my own life. When I was younger, I thought heart issues seemed like such an “old person” problem, so it never crossed my mind to be proactive. In hindsight, here I am, 43 years old, and I have an appointment with a cardiologist in a few weeks to figure out why I’ve had some irregular heartbeats and dizziness. Then I found out that heart disease is the number one cause of death in women in the United States, about one in every five women and the warning signals are entirely different than that of men.
You might think of chest pain as the number one indicator for a heart problem, and it is for men, but for women, the more telling symptoms that happen before any chest pain takes place include some of the following.
- Neck, jaw, shoulder, upper back, or abdominal discomfort.
- Shortness of breath.
- Pain in one or both arms.
- Nausea or vomiting.
- Lightheadedness or dizziness.
- Unusual fatigue.
Before a woman ever gets to the chest pain, pressure, and discomfort of a heart attack, she will have these other signs of heart disease slowly brewing inside her. Women often ignore these symptoms because they can be related to so many other things they are going through, and that mistake can be fatal.
Lifestyle Habits That Hurt Your Heart
- Sitting all day: People who sit for most of their day have double the risk of heart failure. Staying active as we get older is vital for our overall systemic health and our heart health. Not being obese is obviously protective to our hearts, but just as important is not being overweight. Those extra 20 pounds that the average American woman carries around after having children is slowly sabotaging our heart health too.
- Drinking too much alcohol: Drinking too much can lead to high blood pressure, stroke, and obesity. More than one drink a day is considered excessive for women and can affect your normal heart rhythm leading to heart failure.
- Stress: I don’t think I know anyone who isn’t stressed about something; honestly, in my opinion, it is genuinely a symptom of modern society. We have so much in so many ways, and therefore we have so much that we worry about because we are constantly multitasking; we don’t live simple lives anymore. When we are chronically stressed over money, careers, kids, relationships, and goals, our body is excessively releasing adrenaline, which affects how our body works. Adrenaline increases heart rate, blood pressure and damages blood vessels.When you have fibromyalgia (FMS) or chronic fatigue syndrome (ME/CFS), stress is your worst enemy. The majority of patients who suffer from these conditions believe that stress exacerbates their symptoms, sometimes even initiating painful flares.
- Lack of proper oral care: This one always gets underrated because most people don’t associate oral health with systemic health. According to research, the bacteria associated with gum disease promotes inflammation in the rest of the body, including the heart. Patients with chronic gum disease have the highest risk for heart disease.
- Lack of restorative sleep: Not only does our heart rate slow down and drop while we sleep, but our blood pressure also drops. These changes occur during the night in response to our sleep phases, rising and falling in retort to our dreams, helping to promote overall cardiovascular health. Chronic sleep deprivation raises cortisol and adrenaline in the same way you would experience these levels in a stressful situation.
- Too much salt: Excessive sodium can lead to high blood pressure, and it’s the hidden sodium in our modern world that’s doing the most damage. Read the labels and make sure your intake is less than 1,500mg per day.
Types of Heart Disease
- Coronary Artery Disease (CAD)
- High Blood Pressure.
- Heart Arrhythmias.
- Heart Failure.
- Heart Valve Disease.
- Pericardial Disease.
- Cardiomyopathy (Heart Muscle Disease)
- Congenital Heart Disease.
The Connection Between Gum Disease and Heart Disease
The connection between gum disease and heart disease may be related to c-reactive protein (CRP), a protein found in blood plasma. CRP becomes elevated in the bloodstreams of individuals with periodontal disease, and levels may rise in response to inflammation in the body.
- Plaques within the walls of an artery contain up to 95% bacteria.
- 30-50% of those plaques contained periodontal disease pathogens.
- Pathogenic bacteria in our mouths are ending up in our arteries.
- Our body sends out antibodies to fight the bacteria in our arteries.
- The immune response to that bacteria causes inflammation, which impacts overall health.
We aren’t exactly sure how or why these pathogens get in the heart. Because the oral environment produces plaque or tartar buildup in response to oral health, the assumption remains that if that bacteria travels throughout the circulatory system, it will eventually attach to other plaques built up in different parts of the body. Additionally, the evidence and studies are not conclusive in how these two diseases, directly and indirectly, affect one another and how to best treat that.
- Does treating periodontal disease lower your cardiovascular risk? Maybe!
- Does periodontal disease cause cardiovascular disease? No! However, we know that periodontal disease makes treating cardiovascular disease and periodontal disease much more difficult.
- Gum disease and heart disease have risk factors in common. Risk factors include smoking and being overweight. This commonality may help explain why they can co-occur.
- Don’t smoke.
- Know your family history and risk factors.
- Implement a healthy lifestyle and nutrition program.
- Maintain a healthy weight.
- Stay active.
- Take care of your teeth and gums.
Oral health affects so much more than just the mouth, and systemic health is more than just exercising. We have to take a whole-body approach when it comes to leading and living a healthy lifestyle. Being proactive and making lifestyle changes before disease and inflammation sets in is the best defense against disease progression. However, it’s never too late to start doing better, and the simplest thing you can start today is to increase your oral health through better toothbrushing and flossing, followed by seeing your dentist and dental hygienist regularly for care.
If you were looking for better and healthier ways to establish an effective home care routine, you found the right place. If you want to try the best toothbrush for sensitive teeth, look no further than Brilliant Oral Care. Our round head toothbrush not only removes the plaque on teeth, it simultaneously cleans and removes the plaque and bacteria found on the cheeks, gums, teeth, and tongue. It’s the softest toothbrush for sensitive teeth and gums. Don’t forget to #BRUSHBRILLIANT.
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Noelle Copeland RDH is an Oral Care Specialist and Dental Consultant who provides content for Brilliant Oral Care and Baby Buddy.