Heart attack-related protein tied to gum disease

healthcentral1
September 28, 2001

NEW YORK (Reuters Health) – Patients with severe gum disease are more likely to produce an inflammatory response that may place them at elevated risk of suffering a heart attack, researchers report.

“Patients with severe forms of periodontal disease have elevated levels of C-reactive protein compared to patients without periodontal disease,” lead author Dr. Ernesto De Nardin, an associate professor of microbiology and oral biology at the University at Buffalo, New York, School of Medicine and Dentistry, told Reuters Health.

Researchers have previously noted a correlation between high levels of C-reactive protein, which the body produces in response to infection, and subsequent heart attacks.

One theory is that heart attacks occur when a build-up of fats and cells known as vulnerable plaque breaks loose and clogs one of the arteries leading to the heart. High levels of C-reactive protein may somehow be involved in this process, De Nardin explained.

The researchers theorize that people living with a chronic infection such as gum disease may produce higher levels of C-reactive protein, which could place them at higher risk of heart attack.

In this study, investigators compared 59 people with moderate periodontal disease, 50 people with advanced periodontal disease and 65 people with little to no periodontal disease. They report their findings in the September issue of the Journal of Periodontology.

De Nardin and colleagues found that 38% of those with severe periodontal disease had levels of C-reactive protein that had been associated with an increased risk of heart disease, compared with only 17% of those without periodontal disease.

The findings were true even when researchers took into account factors that are known to influence C-reactive protein levels, such as age, gender, body mass and cholesterol levels.

The investigators also found that those who had one, two or several strains of microbes that cause periodontal disease were more likely to have elevated levels of C-reactive protein than those who had no strains of the microbes.

“Nobody says (if) you don’t brush your teeth, you’re going to die of heart disease,” De Nardin said. “This is one of many risk factors that can contribute to an already-existing underlying cause. But it makes it even more significant to see a dentist regularly.”

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