Somewhere after Christmas and before the New Year, my mother called me late. I picked up the phone knowing something was up since it is uncustomary that either one of my parents calls me after 8PM. It was my mother calling for my father.
I had been watching my Dad since late autumn, suspecting a brewing heart condition. Well trained clinical herbalists take the pulses, the tongue and look at other signs that sometimes give us very early warnings for all kinds of imbalances before they become disease. I had been worried, but I was playing it cool. My father was not convinced it was his heart. His GP had given him a clean bill of health, but I was seeing too many signs that were pointing to his heart.
That strange, late evening Dad was having mild chest pressure. It wasn’t intense, it was almost in his esophagus and there were no other signs at all. He thought he had swallowed a vitamin sideways, but it wasn’t going away which was why he called me. Not wanting to be alarmist, I asked him to have a cup of chamomile tea, go back to bed and if he woke in the night with the same feeling, he was to go to the hospital under any and all circumstances.
Turns out my Dad was having a very mild heart attack. It was caught so early that there was no damage to any of his heart muscle.
Several weeks after the two stents were expertly sprung open in fairly blocked coronary arteries, my Dad asks the question which most might ask on meeting my father.
My father doesn’t smoke, has maybe one glass of red wine a week, eats incredibly well, doesn’t eat a lot of sugar, doesn’t eat fast food, is a perfect weight for his hight, is a very active gentleman farmer and his cholesterol levels were normal. At 82 he is outwardly the picture of health.
What the heck?!
What you can’t see is that my father has had a lifetime of tooth decay and periodontal disease. At first blush you may never attribute oral health as an inducer of CVD, but it can be.
Anyone who has a weak heart valve knows the antibiotic protocol before having their teeth cleaned. But its not necessarily the bacteria from the gums that is the culprit. There have been bacteria from the oral cavity found in atherosclerotic plaque which you can read about here:
J Oral Microbiol. 2014 May 15;6. doi: 10.3402/jom.v6.23408. eCollection 2014.
Bacteria and bacterial DNA in atherosclerotic plaque and aneurysmal wall biopsies from patients with and without periodontitis.
PMID: 25006361 [PubMed] PMCID: PMC4024159
What early research is finding is that gum disease can be a contributing factor to an overall systemic inflammatory response that may, over time, negatively effect the coronary arteries. A couple of research pieces that might start you thinking….
J Dent Res. 2011 Sep;90(9):1062-9. doi: 10.1177/0022034510397194. Epub 2011 Feb 14.
Novel endothelial biomarkers: implications for periodontal disease and CVD.
Clin Sci (Lond). 2011 Apr;120(7):263-83. doi: 10.1042/CS20100429.
Endothelial progenitor cells: novel biomarker and promising cell therapy for cardiovascular disease.
The real point to all of this inquiry is just to illustrate that our body systems are all connected. To focus only on our cholesterol levels as an indicator for whether we will have CVD or not doesn’t tell the whole story.
The liver sends cholesterol to areas where it thinks there’s a lesion and that signal is set off by certain inflammatory markers. It’s the same reason why sticky fibrin and platelets are sent to these areas and clots are formed. The body thinks there’s an injury or need for repair based on the inflammation signals. So, yes cholesterol has a part to play, but other systems, organs and tissues are suspect for influence on the underlying mechanisms.
Not that any of this is diagnostic in any way, but there is a golden thread here. The body is not the sum of its parts. The body is whole and coordinated and each aspect of it communicates with the totality of the being at all times.
It is a wondrous thing, our bodies and maintaining good health keeps some of us on our toes.
If you are interested in natural approaches to improving oral health, check out the Ayurvedic practice of Oil Pulling.
Take Good Care!