Strokes are one of the leading causes of death in the United States, as one person dies every four minutes on average due to a stroke or complications from the condition. Preventing strokes comes down to getting regular exercise and eating a healthy diet, but your oral health also can help reduce your stroke risk. Below, we take a closer look at the link between your oral health and your stroke risk.
Strokes and Your Teeth
To better understand the relationship between stroke risk and your oral health, we first must learn a little bit more about stroke onset. A stroke occurs when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures, or when a blood clot prevents oxygen from getting to the brain. This can cause a variety of physical symptoms, including the inability to speak, a drooping face, limb weakness and impaired vision. Due to their onset, individuals who are at the highest risk for strokes are older individuals, African Americans, people who live a sedentary lifestyle, obese individuals and smokers.
So how does mouth health affect your risk of stroke? According to medical data, you may be more likely to suffer a stroke if you have poor gum health. Poor oral health can lead to the onset of gum disease, which is an inflammatory condition that leads to swollen, red and bleeding gums. The condition also involves the overgrowth of mouth bacteria, and this abundance of oral bacteria can lead to an infection. This bacterial infection can get into your bloodstream, which can make your blood clot more easily. If your blood clots and it prevents air from getting to your brain, you can suffer a stroke.
It’s very important to prevent inflammatory gum disease. Not only can it reduce your risk of a stroke, but gum disease has also been medically linked to an increased risk of diabetes, Alzheimer’s disease and certain cancers. The best way to prevent gum disease is to brush your teeth twice a day for at least two minutes each time, floss daily to remove plaque and tartar from between your teeth that contributes to gum disease, and to get regular dental cleanings to stay on top of your gum health. Gum disease affects more than 64 million Americans, but we can help decrease those numbers and our stroke risk by being cognizant of what contributes to gum disease and how to best prevent it.
So if you are considered at a higher risk for stroke because of your age or other health factors, or if you’ve suffered a stroke in the past, make sure you are working to reduce your risk in every controllable way. Eat a healthy diet, give up smoking, lead an active lifestyle and take care of your oral health! If you want more information about the association between your mouth health and stroke risk, or if you are interested in setting up your next appointment with Dr. Brooks, reach out to his clinic today.