A heart attack or stroke may seem like a sudden event, but it’s actually not. It the culmination of a slow-developing disease that includes several degenerative processes, such as clogging your arteries.
Because fat makes up much of the material in arterial clogs, it was thought that having a high fat diet was the cause of clogged arteries. But previous research hasn’t demonstrated the strong correlation between diet and arterial clogs. And now research is suggesting that the source of artery-clogging fat may actually be oral bacteria.
This would be another mechanism that would explain how gum disease could cause heart disease.
A Distinctive Kind of Fat
So how did these researchers track down the source of fat in arterial clogs? They identified a unique kind of fat that’s linked to oral bacteria.
All fats are composed of fatty acids, which link together to form fat molecules. In mammals and plants, these fatty acids are typically made of long single chains. But in bacteria, these chains can be branched, creating a distinctive structure.
These branched fatty acids are often linked to particular kinds of bacteria, called Bacteroides, which are commonly found in the gut, but can also participate in gum disease. Bacteroides are a notable source of these branched fats because the bacteria are constantly shedding fat, which can make its way from the mouth into the bloodstream.
A Triple Whammy for Your Arteries
Once this distinctive fat is in your arteries, it can also be particularly damaging. There is not one but three mechanisms that cause this fat to contribute to clogged and hardened arteries.
First, the fat sticks together to form the physical clog. Clogs in your bloodstream can contribute to high blood pressure, and they can break loose to create blockages in your veins, which causes a stroke or heart attack.
In addition, your body knows these strange fats don’t belong in your body. That means they trigger your immune system to be on alert, which leads to inflammation, which can also stress your heart and increase the risk of narrow or clogged blood vessels.
And as these strange fats break down, they release more inflammatory compounds, triggering an even greater immune response.
With this complex array of causes, these strange fats could significantly increase your risk of heart attack or stroke.
Protect Your Teeth and Your Heart
The more we learn about the strong connection between gum disease and heart disease, the better we understand how important it is to maintain your oral health. Gum disease is not just the leading cause of tooth loss among adults, it may also be the leading cause of cardiovascular problems.