Floss Your Teeth Daily to Reduce Your Risk of Stroke

909 oral bacteria and stroke

You may be familiar with common stroke-prevention strategies: Exercise regularly, eat plenty of vegetables, minimize stress, and keep inflammation at bay. But did you know taking good care of your teeth and gums is a major way to lower stroke risk?

A new study has found a significant link between stroke and oral bacteria. An analysis of blood clots from 75 ischemic stroke patients found almost 80 percent of them had oral bacteria DNA concentrated in the blood clots that weren’t found in other blood samples from the same patient.

The presence of oral bacteria in blood clots rounds out a much larger picture that shows the role gum disease and oral bacteria play in cardiovascular and neurological health.

The same research team has also found that blood clots containing oral bacteria cause heart attacks and brain aneurysms, that thromboses in the leg veins and arteries contain oral bacteria, and that oral bacteria is linked to heart infection.

Other research has linked oral bacteria from gum disease with an increased risk of Alzheimer’s. The bacteria produce toxins in the brain that give rise to the misfolding of proteins in the brain that is the hallmark of Alzheimer’s.

An ischemic stroke occurs when a blood clot starves a part of the brain of blood flow and vital oxygen, causing massive tissue damage. It is commonly caused by the narrowing and hardening of the arteries from plaquing, or atherosclerosis.

There is evidence that oral bacteria activates platelets and speeds up the development of atherosclerosis and blood clotting.

Here’s a tip to motivate you to floss

We get it, flossing is tedious and annoying. You just want to brush your teeth and be done.

Here’s a little tip that may motivate you to floss and brush more regularly: After you floss between a couple of teeth, smell your floss. If it has a foul odor that’s a sign you’ve got oral bacteria accumulating on your teeth and gums. This is also a sign your breath probably stinks as well! Smell check your floss after flossing each section of teeth — you may find areas that need extra attention.

Reacquaint yourself with healthy flossing and brushing habits and consider investing in a water flossing device. These devices use water to deliver extra cleaning power to the teeth and to stimulate gum tissue, so it stays healthy. However, please note that a water flosser should be an adjunct to flossing and not a substitute. Water flossing is not as effective as using dental floss.

Use functional medicine to prevent strokes

Healthy teeth and gums also depend on a healthy diet and lifestyle. This ties in with general stroke prevention strategies — 90 percent of strokes are caused by dietary and lifestyle habits.

Strokes are the third leading cause of death in the United States and the leading cause of disability.

Studies have found the following factors are the most common causes of strokes:

  • High blood pressure
  • Smoking
  • Poor diet
  • Lack of exercise
  • Excess alcohol
  • Stress and depression
  • Diabetes
  • Excess abdominal fat
  • Heart disorders

As research continues, poor oral hygiene may get added to this list.

Functional medicine strategies to prevent stroke

Focus on whole foods, plenty of vegetables, and healthy fats. Ditch the sodas, desserts, sweet coffee drinks, and processed foods. It might be hard at first, but you’ll start to feel heaps better.

Stabilize blood sugar

High blood sugar from too many sweets and processed carbohydrates causes chronic inflammation, which damages and thickens arterial walls and promotes the formation of arterial plaques and blood clots. Type 2 diabetes and insulin resistance, or pre-diabetes, increase your risk of stroke by two to four times.

Regular exercise prevents strokes and makes you feel awesome

Exercise is a magic bullet when it comes to preventing strokes and promoting a healthy brain. Regular physical activity keeps blood vessels strong, improves oxygenation of the brain, and increases your metabolism. Exercise after a stroke also significantly reduces the severity of the repercussions and improves recovery.

Ask my office how we can help you lower your risk of stroke and support your brain health.

Controversial New Study Reports Statins Useless

904 study says statins useless

A controversial new study found that high cholesterol does not shorten life span and that statins are essentially a “waste of time,” according to one of the researchers. Previous studies have linked statins with an increased risk of diabetes.

The study reviewed research of almost 70,000 people and found that elevated levels of “bad cholesterol” did not raise the risk of early death from cardiovascular disease in people over 60.

The authors called for statin guidelines to be reviewed, claiming the benefits of statins are “exaggerated.”

Not only did the study find no link between high cholesterol and early death, it also found that people with high “bad” cholesterol (low-density lipoprotein, or LDL) actually lived longer and had fewer incidences of heart disease.

The co-author and vascular surgeon went on to say that cholesterol is vital for preventing cancer, muscle pain, infection, and other health disorders in older people. He said that statins are a “waste of time” for lowering cholesterol and that lifestyle changes are more effective for improving cardiovascular health.

Naturally, the paper drew fire and its conclusions were dismissed by other experts in the field. Statins are among the most commonly prescribed drugs — one in four Americans over the age of 40 take statins and the drug accounts for more than $20 billion in spending each year. Statin use has gone up more than 80 percent in the last 20 years.

Statins linked to higher risk of diabetes and other health disorders

In functional medicine we recognize cholesterol as a vital compound in the body for multiple functions, including brain function and muscle strength. Overly low cholesterol is linked with an increased risk of several health disorders, including diabetes.

One study of almost 9,000 people showed that people in their 60s who used statins had an almost 40 percent higher risk of type 2 diabetes. They also had higher rates of high blood sugar and pre-diabetes, or insulin resistance. High blood sugar disorders underpin numerous chronic inflammatory conditions, including Alzheimer’s and dementia.

Previous research found a 50 percent increased risk of diabetes in women who took statins.

In addition to raising the risk of high blood sugar and diabetes, statins also may cause such side effects as muscle weakness and wasting, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and dizziness.

Statins do not address the underlying cause of heart disease: Chronic inflammation

Statins may lower cholesterol, but they do not address the underlying cause of heart disease, which is typically chronic inflammation (some people are genetically predisposed to cardiovascular disease). The body uses cholesterol to repair arteries damaged by inflammation — the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes.

For instance, the vast majority of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol. In other countries where people have higher cholesterol than Americans, they also have less heart disease. In fact, low cholesterol in elderly patients is linked to a higher risk of death compared to high cholesterol.

Improving heart health through functional medicine instead of statins

Functional medicine is a great way to improve cardiovascular health because it avoids drugs that cause potentially harmful side effects. Although lifestyle changes may require more work than popping a pill, they address root causes of your disorder versus overriding them. This means you feel and function better overall.

What does a functional medicine approach to heart health look like?

  • An anti-inflammatory diet
  • Releasing feel-good endorphins on a regular basis through exercise (endorphins are anti-inflammatory)
  • Targeted nutritional support
  • Identifying and addressing the root causes of your inflammation, which are different for everyone. Possibilities include high blood sugar, poor thyroid function, an undiagnosed autoimmune disorder, chronic bacterial, fungal, or viral infections, leaky gut, or a brain imbalance, such as from a past brain injury.

It’s important to address things from this angle because cholesterol is vital to good health. It is found in every cell and helps produce cell membranes, vitamin D, and hormones. It’s also necessary for healthy brain function.

Inflammation promotes heart disease

Chronic inflammation and not cholesterol is the concerning factor in heart disease. The blood marker C-reactive protein (CRP) identifies inflammation. If it’s high, you have a higher risk for heart disease than those with high cholesterol. Having normal cholesterol but high CRP does not protect you from heart disease.

By using functional medicine to lower your inflammation and improve your heart health, you not only avoid the risks and dangers of statins, but also you get to better enjoy your golden years thanks to improved energy and well being.

Statins Raise Diabetes Risk: What to Do Instead of Drugs

841 statins raise diabetes risk

You’ve been told you need to lower your cholesterol, but did you know taking a statin could raise your risk of type 2 diabetes? A recent study of almost 9,000 people in their 60s showed that statin use increased the risk of diabetes by almost 40 percent. Statin use was also associated with a higher risk for elevated blood sugar and insulin resistance (pre-diabetes). While the brand of statin subjects took didn’t seem to matter, risk was higher in overweight and obese subjects.

Given the risks associated with high blood sugar, insulin resistance, and diabetes, this study highlights further problems with statin use for a condition that is typically well managed through functional medicine protocols. High blood sugar and diabetes raise your risk for many chronic health disorders, including dementia and Alzheimer’s.

This isn’t the first study to link statins with an increased risk of type 2 diabetes. Previous research has found a 50 percent increased risk of diabetes in female users.

Statins most commonly prescribed drugs

Statins are among the most commonly prescribed drugs, accounting for more than $20 billion of spending a year. About one in four Americans over 40 takes statins, with that number having increased by almost 80 percent in the last two decades. Side effects include muscle weakness and wasting, headaches, difficulty sleeping, and dizziness.

Statins do not address the underlying cause of high cholesterol

Although statins lower cholesterol, they do not address the underlying cause of high cholesterol in most people, which is typically inflammation (some people have a genetic disorder that causes very high cholesterol). The body uses cholesterol to patch up damage in the arteries caused by inflammation. In fact, research shows inflammation is the primary cause of heart attacks and strokes, not high cholesterol.

Considering the following facts about cholesterol and heart disease:

  • 75 percent of people who have heart attacks have normal cholesterol.
  • Older patients with low cholesterol have a higher risk of death than those with higher cholesterol.
  • Populations in other countries with higher cholesterol than Americans have less heart disease.

Hypothyroidism, a condition estimated to affect more than 20 million Americans, raises cholesterol. Many find a gluten-free diet lowers cholesterol, as gluten is inflammatory for so many people.

Research also shows diets low in fat and high in carbohydrates increase the “bad” form of LDL (there are two to look at) and decrease the protective HDL.

Lowering cholesterol through functional medicine

Using functional medicine is a highly effective way to lower cholesterol naturally. This is because functional medicine identifies and manages the root cause of a problem versus using a drug to block symptoms.

Management includes an anti-inflammatory diet, exercise, nutritional support, and finding out causes of inflammation. These may include low thyroid function, autoimmune disease, bacterial or viral infections, leaky gut, poor blood-sugar handling, or other chronic health issues.

In fact, high cholesterol is more often tied to a diet too high processed carbohydrates and sugars, not fat. Sugar and refined carbs, including processed white foods, drive good cholesterol down and triglycerides up. It causes low density small particles that encourage the dangerous buildup of arterial plaque. This can lead to not only heart disease but also insulin resistance or “pre-diabetes.” Sugar, not dietary fat, is the bigger cause of most heart attacks.

However, the type of fat you eat matters too. Trans fats, or hydrogenated fats, promote dangerous types of cholesterol, while omega-3 fats and monounsaturated fats improve the healthy types of cholesterol.

Measuring cholesterol players

Cholesterol is found in every cell and helps produce cell membranes, vitamin D, and hormones. It’s also necessary for good neurological function.

When we measure cholesterol, we are measuring LDL and HDL. These are small packages of fat and protein that help move cholesterol throughout the body.

High-density lipoprotein — HDL

This is considered “good” cholesterol. It helps removes excess arterial plaque.

Low-density lipoprotein — LDL

This is considered “bad” cholesterol. It can form plaque that narrows the arteries and makes them less flexible (atherosclerosis).

Triglycerides

High levels of this dangerous fat are linked to heart disease and diabetes. Levels rise from eating too many sugars and processed carbs, as well as from smoking, physical inactivity, excessive drinking and being overweight.

Lipoprotein (a) or Lp(a)

Lp(a) is made up of an LDL part plus a protein (apoprotein a). Elevated Lp(a) levels are a strong risk for heart disease.

When testing cholesterol, please pay attention to:

  • Levels of HDL “good” cholesterol versus LDL “bad” cholesterol
  • Triglyceride levels
  • The ratio of triglycerides to HDL
  • The ratio of total cholesterol to HDL

Inflammation promotes heart disease

Systemic inflammation is a primary factor in heart disease and most chronic health disorders. A diet high in sugars and processed carbs, a sedentary lifestyle, smoking, excessive drinking, chronic stress, gut infections, unmanaged autoimmunity, and chronic infections are all causes of chronic inflammation. People with elevated systemic inflammation, which is measured by a blood marker called C-reactive protein (CRP) have a higher risk for heart disease than those with high cholesterol. Also, normal cholesterol is not protective for those with high CRP.

By addressing the cause of high cholesterol not only do you avoid the dangerous risks and unpleasant side effects of statins, but also you journey into your golden years with improved energy and well being.

Gut Bacteria and the Heart

832 gut bacteria and the heart

Unhealthy gut bacteria are a bigger risk for atherosclerosis, or hardening of the arteries than smoking, cholesterol levels, obesity, or diabetes. Atherosclerosis is the leading cause of heart disease.

That’s because the root cause of heart disease is inflammation. In fact, most modern health disorders are rooted in inflammation, including arthritis, diabetes, obesity, dementia, depression, and inflammatory bowel disease. Cardiovascular disease is no exception.

So where do gut bacteria come in? Researchers have discovered an unhealthy microbiome — the term given to our inner garden of gut bacteria — is pro-inflammatory while a healthy gut microbiome is anti-inflammatory. Unfortunately, Americans have the unhealthiest gut microbiomes studied thus far.

A recent study found that women experiencing hardening of the arteries also showed less gut bacteria diversity while women with healthy arteries showed healthier gut bacteria. A diverse array of gut bacteria is linked with better health.

The study also found that in healthy subjects, diverse and healthy gut bacteria produced more indolepropionic acid (IPA), a neuroprotective antioxidant that also has been shown to lower the risk of diabetes.

The gut microbiome and high blood pressure

It turns out there is more to high blood pressure than reducing your salt intake. Researchers have found high blood pressure, which increases your risk of heart disease and stroke, can also be linked to the gut microbiome.

The key is in a compound called propionate, one of several short-chain fatty acids (SCFAs) produced by healthy gut bacteria. Scientists are learning that SCFAs such as propionate and butyrate are instrumental to the health of the brain and body in many ways, with propionate being specific to the cardiovascular system.

How to foster a heart-healthy gut microbiome

Although taking propionate may help, it won’t do much good if it’s battling a minefield of infectious and inflammatory gut bacteria. Just as healthy gut bacteria produce SCFAs that are good for us, bad bacteria produce the highly inflammatory compound lipopolysaccharide (LPS).

The key to a heart-healthy gut microbiome is to eat about 25–30 grams of fiber a day via a very diverse array of vegetables and modest amounts of fruit (fruits are high in sugar and too much sugar is inflammatory).

It’s the diversity of vegetables that matters most, with research increasingly confirming that a diverse gut microbiome is what lies behind good health and a lower risk of disease.

Switch up the vegetables you eat regularly and shop at world markets unfamiliar to you to try new types of produce. Even a teaspoon of different new veggies each day is enough to help colonize the friendly bacteria that will work to keep your heart healthy.

In this fiber-rich environment, supplementing with SCFAs such as butyrate and propionate can help boost your gut bacteria to produce even more of their own SCFAs.

Additionally, make sure to keep your blood sugar stable by eliminating sugars, sweeteners, and processed carbohydrates, avoid foods that cause an immune reaction in you (for example, gluten and dairy do for many people), avoid toxin chemicals in your foods and body products that can kill good bacteria, and exercise daily — exercise has been shown to positively influence your gut microbiome.

Ask my office for more advice on how to cultivate an optimal gut microbiome and detoxify bad bacteria.