Heart attack: How the condition is linked to your mouth – warning signs to look out for

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Heart attacks happen when an artery supplying your heart with blood and oxygen becomes blocked, usually by a build-up of fatty plaques called cholesterol. Heart attacks fall under the umbrella of cardiovascular disease (CVD), which generally refers to conditions that involve narrowed or blocked blood vessels. The mouth is surprisingly linked to heart attacks with a few warning signs to spot.

Gum disease or periodontitis could lead to heart disease, as a build-up of ‘bad’ bacteria in the mouth can enter the bloodstream.

Gum disease symptoms include bad breath, tooth loss or inflamed gums.

Professor Adam Taylor from Lancaster University said: “The heart, so integral to life.

“It sits in its protective cage in the chest, going about its work without any external sign to the owner.

“The mouth is full of bacteria, both good and bad.

“The bad bacteria can enter the bloodstream from the mouth and cause inflammation in the blood vessels, which can lead to cardiovascular disease.”

For decades, researchers have probed the link between gum disease and cardiovascular health.

Gum disease begins when the sticky, bacteria-laden film dentists refer to as plaque builds up around the teeth.

It’s a completely different type of plaque which is made up of fat, cholesterol, calcium and other substances found in blood can build up inside arteries.

Known as atherosclerosis, this fatty plaque is the hallmark and breeding ground for heart disease and heart attacks.

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Experiencing a pain in the jaw is another lesser-known sign of a heart attack.

Professor David Newby said: “With heart attacks, it can even happen that the pain is felt in the jaw, or the back.

“If it doesn’t go away, call 999 and ask for an ambulance.”

According to the health site, Doctors Hospital, a sour taste in the mouth is a lesser-known warning sign.

Chronic or severe indigestion without burping, belching and heartburn can also indicate you’re having a heart attack.

Other lesser-known warning signs of a heart attack include:

  • Breaking out in a sweat for no apparent reason, nausea/vomiting or severe indigestion with transient weakness
  • Unusual fatigue or sleeplessness
  • Shortness of breath.

How to reduce heart attack risk

Penn Medicine said: “Of course, it’s always a good idea to take steps toward preventing a heart attack in the first place.

“While some risk factors cannot be controlled – age and family history of heart disease, for instance – others are manageable.

“Staying on top of other health issues such as high blood pressure, high cholesterol and diabetes can go a long way toward lowering your risk of heart attack.

“And many lifestyle changes to prevent heart attack are quick enough that they can be worked into your everyday routine.

“These include working on healthier eating habits.”
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