How dentists can help patients discover hypertension
Friday, May 19, 2017
The month of May is officially known as National High Blood Pressure Education Month in the U.S. The National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute (NHLBI) and other health organizations use this time to spread awareness of the problem and how to best address it.
The many complications stemming from high blood pressure (hypertension) include a higher risk of aneurysm, coronary artery disease, stroke, kidney failure and more. These health problems can lead to death or severe disability.
The problem with diagnosing hypertension is that often, there are no signs or symptoms significant enough to tip off patients something is wrong, meaning they don't go to a cardiologist before a problem develops.
However, the presence of gum disease can be an indicator — or predictor — a patient either has or will develop high blood pressure. Multiple studies have shown patients who have periodontal disease are also likely to have high blood pressure, though the reason for the correlation remains largely unknown to specialists.
In fact, a study by the Swedish Karolinska University Hospital found having gum disease increases a person's risk of having their first heart attack by more than 25 percent. The study, like most other publications focusing on periodontal disease and heart attacks, concludes that both chronic illnesses are best managed by the same remedies: regular brushing and flossing, eating healthy foods and abstaining from all forms of tobacco.
The good news is that periodontal disease is not a death sentence. A recent study published in the British Dental Journal suggests the therapy to manage periodontal disease is associated with the reduction in markers of select cardiovascular disease. So, in other words, managing periodontal disease successfully likely results in a marked reduction of heart risks.
Going to the dentist regularly will increase the likelihood a dental professional will discover the presence of periodontal disease. Dentists and other oral health professionals should strongly recommend those in their care get an annual checkup from their general practitioner — especially when gum disease is present.
This approach can increase the chances a patient will seek out medical help before it's too late. Keep information about the ties between oral health and overall well-being to distribute to patients, as well.
Other steps can include recommending patients obtain supplemental education. The American Heart Association has a handy High Blood Pressure Health Risk calculator for people to find out their risks of overall heart disease and steps they can take to reduce the likelihood of these problems.
Taking extra steps to ensure patients have access to education can make the difference in undiagnosed and diagnosed high blood pressure.
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