Tag Archives: Heart Disease

The One Diet That Can Cure Most Disease: Part 1

Red, Yellow, GreenIf I told you there was one diet that could cure arthritis, fatigue, irritable bowel, reflux, chronic allergies, eczema, psoriasis, autoimmune disease, diabetes, heart disease, migraines, depression, attention deficit disorder, and occasionally even autism and that it could help you lose weight quickly and easily without cravings, suffering, or deprivation, you might wonder if Dr. Hyman had gone a bit crazy.

But it’s true. And the story goes like this.

Food is medicine. Bad food is bad medicine and will make us sick. Good food is good medicine that can prevent, reverse, and even cure disease. Take away the bad food, put in the good food and magic happens.

The problem with current medical thinking is that it treats diseases individually, requiring specific diagnoses and labels: “you have migraines,” “you have depression,” “you have psoriasis.” And then you get the migraine pill, the antidepressant, and the immune suppressant.

What if you didn’t have to treat diseases specifically or even need to know their names? In fact, I often see patients—like one I saw yesterday—who came with 20 pages of analysis from a dozen doctors from the Mayo Clinic. Her “diagnoses” were “muscle pain, fatigue and insomnia,” and she had been given no recommendations for treatment. Not very helpful!

I recently saw a patient treated at Harvard by multiple specialists. She was on 42 pills a day for severe allergies, asthma, and hives. She even died twice and had to be resuscitated after anaphylactic shock. In just a few short weeks, simply by changing her diet, she got off all her medications, and her allergies, hives, and asthma were gone.

Another patient, who suffered for decades with reflux and irritable bowel and whose symptoms weren’t controlled with acid blockers and “gut relaxers,” got complete relief from his symptoms one week after changing his diet.

What if you could just treat the whole person with dietary changes, upgrading the information given every day to your body through food? Food is information carrying detailed instructions for every gene and every cell in your body, helping them to renew, repair, and heal or to be harmed and debilitated, depending on what you eat. What if you could send messages and instructions to heal your cells and turn on healing genes? And what if, by some simple changes in your diet, you could get rid of most of your chronic symptoms and diseases in just one week (or maybe two!)?

That is entirely possible. Some people call it detox, Some people call it an elimination diet. I call it the inclusion and abundance diet.

I call it UltraSimple!

The best part of this approach is that you don’t have to trust me or any “expert.” You simply have to trust your body. It will tell you very quickly what it likes and doesn’t like.

If you are constantly putting in information that is making your body toxic, sick, and fat—hyper-processed industrial junk food, sugar, flour, chemicals, additives, MSG, high fructose corn syrup, trans fats, artificial sweeteners, inflammatory foods, or what I call anti-nutrients—it acts like poison in the body. It inflames your gut and your cells leading to whole-body inflammation that you experience as pain, allergies, headaches, fatigue, and depression and that leads to weight gain, diabetes, and heart disease.

This one diet, The UltraSimple Diet—getting the junk out, getting inflammatory foods out, adding healing, detoxifying, anti-inflammatory foods—has the power to heal in a way that medication can’t and never will be able to.

I have used it for decades with tens of thousands of patients with remarkable results. We are beginning studies at Harvard that will look at how to tackle the toughest diseases with a simple change in diet.

This approach can work faster and better than any medication. The power of this simple diet change—getting rid of the bad stuff and putting in the good stuff—can often reverse the most difficult-to-treat medical problems and give people the experience of profound wellness, even if they don’t have a serious illness. It is something everyone should try just once. Most of my patients say, “Dr. Hyman, I didn’t know I was feeling so bad until I started feeling so good.”

Let me share a story, one that is very common in the world of functional medicine, which is the science of treating the roots causes of disease, the science of creating health.

One patient, a medical school professor and doctor, came to see me after struggling for years with psoriatic arthritis. He was crippled by pain and inflammation, despite taking powerful immune-suppressing drugs, including an ibuprofen-like drug, chemo drugs, and a drug called a TNF alpha-blocker that suppresses the immune response so much that its side effects include overwhelming infection, cancer, and death. Still, he wasn’t better, and at 56 years old, he was planning to quit. He couldn’t operate any longer and could barely walk up the stairs. He had psoriasis all over his skin, and it was destroying his joints. He also had reflux, depression, canker sores, constipation, and trouble with concentration. His liver function tests were abnormal, and he was overweight.

He had a horrible diet. He ate oatmeal with milk and sugar for breakfast, tuna with soup and cookies for lunch, and fish or meat with vegetables and potato or pasta for dinner. He snacked on cookies and protein bars. He avoided chocolate and fatty foods. He ate out more than five times per week and craved sweets and caffeine, consuming three to four cups of coffee and one diet soda per day. He drank about 12 alcoholic beverages per week, including wine and the occasional scotch.

So, I put him on The UltraSimple Diet, getting rid of industrial food, caffeine, alcohol, and sugar and adding whole, real foods. I also got rid of the most common food allergens and sensitivities.

At his first follow-up visit, he arrived pain-free and said he hadn’t felt so good in years. He reported an 80% reduction in pain, could climb stairs more quickly, and was no longer limping. All his pain and stiffness were gone. His hands had been swollen and difficult to open, but now, the swelling was gone and he could operate again. And he had quit all his medications after the first visit (even though I told him not to). His reflux and migraines were gone. His mood had improved, and he was less irritable. He was no longer constipated. And he lost 15 pounds.

If there is one thing I could encourage everyone to do, it is to take just one week to see just how powerful a drug food can be. There is nothing to lose but your suffering. It doesn’t take months or years to see change. It happens in days or weeks.

In my next blog, I will explain exactly what this diet is, why it works, and how it heals your body. And I will show you how to get started.

Please leave your thoughts by adding a comment below—but remember, I can’t offer personal medical advice online, so be sure to limit your comments to those about taking back our health!

 

Originally published on my website, DrHyman.com.

Deepak Chopra: Medicine Keeps Changing But Not Well-Being

One Dollar, Sir!By Deepak Chopra, MD, FACP

Anyone who regularly follows the medical news from the Associated Press or New York Times will get the impression of fickleness. Research studies sometimes advance medical knowledge, but basic findings also seem to contradict one another. Take a recent study that seemed to show that the recommended low-salt diet for preventing high blood pressure and heart disease in fact increased the risk of both conditions (the Centers for Disease Control issued a warning that the study contradicted a large body of accepted research, making it, if not invalid, at least very confusing).

This is just one example of similar debates over basic areas like depression, autism, cholesterol, and cancer where the shifting sands of medical opinion never seem to settle. In addition, the huge profits of drugs aimed to treat these things add a note of suspicion. How do we know that findings aren’t being manipulated by those who have an economic interest in them?

The net result of contradictory research is unfortunate. It gives the average person yet another reason to shrug off prevention. Yet it’s the area of prevention that has remained solid for decades. In fact, more and more disorders have been added to the preventable list – many cancers are now included – and up-to-date genetics indicates that the functioning of genes is strongly affected by positive lifestyle changes.

The bottom line is that our focus can’t be on magic bullets from the drug companies or long-awaited genetic therapies. As the cost of American medicine continues to climb, the biggest push should be to end the era of noncompliance. We know what leads to well-being, but as a society we don’t comply with common sense and best advice. Yet look at how good the news really is if you make an effort to comply:

  • Maintaining your desired weight reduces the deleterious effects of fat on the body, which have been well documented. Being overweight is also associated with chronic inflammation, which increasingly looks like a major culprit in heart disease and cancer.
  • It has long been known that a sedentary lifestyle increases the risk of many lifestyle disorders, but only a small percentage of people regularly exercise. So it’s good news that just moving your body throughout the day, doing as little as walking around every hour, taking the stairs, and stretching, delivers some of the fundamental benefits of exercise. The more you exercise, the greater the benefits, yet the widest health gap is between those who don’t move at all and those who bother to do the minimum.
  • Nutrition has suffered from a lack of substantiated studies and a wealth of fads, received opinions, and myths. One hopeful exception was the recent Spanish study that saw a decrease in heart attacks and strokes among subjects who were put on a Mediterranean diet heavy in fish, olive oil, and nuts while generally avoiding red meat, butter, and cheese. Arguments over the best diet will continue to rage, but no evidence has contradicted a simple guideline: Eating a diet of fresh, whole foods that tends strongly toward vegetarianism while eliminating excessive intake of, fat, red meat, salt, and sugar is strongly indicated. Since fast food and junk foods are generally heavy on the salt, fat, and sugar, weaning yourself off them should have high priority.
  • The benefits of meditation and stress management have been established for a long time. Now the results of these practices are only becoming more valid. The indication is that simple meditation, for example, causes a change in genetic activity from the first session onward, and the connection of stress with chronic inflammation is getting stronger. In other words, meditation and stress management are biologically sound; a far remove from the attitude that stress can be good for you by increasing your competitive edge and that meditation was a cultural curiosity from the East.

In a nutshell, prevention is about the two-edged sword of adaptability. The human body is incredibly adaptable, allowing for lifestyles that contain extremes of diet, exercise, and stress. If you abuse your body’s adaptability, it will do its best to keep you in balance anyway, but there will be a high price to pay over time. Yet if you change the trend toward positive health habits, the same adaptability becomes your greatest ally. The body’s set point is for well-being, and the more you allow it to regain that set point, the faster it will return to it. Noncompliance remains the thorn in the side of the prevention movement. Even so, the astonishing intelligence of the human body can’t be nullified. It waits for each person to act as intelligently as every cell, tissue, and organ already does.

 

www.deepakchopra.com

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Heart Disease and Pregnancy: Mom Dies, Delivers Baby, and Then Comes Back to Life

A miracle if we ever heard one: Erica Nigrelli, a high school English teacher, collapsed inside her classroom at 36 weeks pregnant. A school nurse, assistant, and athletic teacher quickly began CPR and used a defibrillator to restart Nigrelli’s heartbeat. She was rushed to the hospital with her husband – a fellow teacher – at her side, and her baby was delivered by emergency cesarean. But Erica was essentially dead; there was no heartbeat.

Watch this video to hear how both mom and baby ended up surviving this horrible incident, largely thanks to the three heroes who jumped to Erica’s aid:

Erica had an undetected heart defect that caused her to collapse at 36 weeks. Though we don’t know exactly the condition Erica suffered from, there are several things to note about heart conditions during pregnancy.

According to Heart cardiology journal, congenital heart disease is the most common heart defect, with roughly 1% of newborns diagnosed with this condition. Thanks to modern methods in cardiac surgery, more infants than ever  – over 90% – survive to adulthood. There is a population of at least 1 million adults in the United States living with congenital heart disease. Due to the dangers of this disorder, many patients are advised against pregnancy, altogether, though many are able to carry babies to term. Consider, though, that pregnancy already entails increased heart rate, lowered blood pressure, and increased blood volume – all of which can put strain on the heart and exacerbate existing conditions. The challenge isn’t necessarily insurmountable, but it is definitely something to discuss with doctors and partners.

What can you do to minimize the risk?

  • Schedule an appointment with a cardiologist before conceiving (or early in your pregnancy so that you’ll know what you’re dealing with)
  • Get plenty of rest
  • Minimize stress as much as possible
  • Pay attention to any warning signs – shortness of breath, fainting, chest pain, irregular heartbeat, bloody coughing
  • Adequately prepare for labor, which might include planning to deliver at a birth center that specializes high-risk pregnancy, temporarily moving or staying closer to your place of delivery (to minimize labor stress), and hiring a doula for extra support

Do you have any experience with heart defects and pregnancy? Tell us your thoughts in the comments section below!

 

Related Articles:

The Truth About Medications during Pregnancy and Breastfeeding

Breastfeeding Pain – The Aspects of Motherhood No One Told Us About

Positive Birthing: 5 Practical Steps to Optimize a Joyful Birth Experience

6 Ways to Chill This Summer

UntitledMany have read about stress-reduction methods, but are usually too stressed to practice these strategies when you are all worked up. “Don’t tell me to calm down!” Did you know that summer is the best time to practice these techniques, so that they can become knee-jerk responses for cold, dark, rainy days? And you are more inclined to do so because the living really is easier in summer with lighter clothing, casual Fridays at work, back yard barbecues, hikes, outings to the shore and sipping cool drinks – the emphasis is on sipping not gulping.

6 summer stress-management strategies:

  1. The season’s emphasis is on being natural. Light clothing and bathing suits reveal more of who you truly are as you let down your guard and take off your mask revealing your authentic self. And if you cringe at this aforementioned thought, then improve or change who you are! Note that self-suppression is a potent stressor which can lead to heart disease. Communicating openly and naturally reduces the likelihood of stress due to misunderstanding or the famous words, “I should have said…”
  2. Sunshine lifts the spirit and the Vitamin D which penetrates the body through exposed skin improves health, strengthens bones and boosts the immune system. Better to get sun-kissed Vitamin D than wonder about which supplements to take as well as the dosage. However, don’t over tan as skin cancer is the downside.
  3. Summer childhood memories remind us to take vacation, even a staycation, or frequent mini-vacations. Although you might fear taking time off from work, you actually come back better.
  4. Outdoor activity directly counteracts technology overload to reset natural rhythm. Being more active helps to alleviate anxiety and break negative loops. Taking a walk during a lunch break restores and reignites productivity.
  5. Hot summer days, like those in Mediterranean countries, help to manage weight as you tend to eat lighter foods like fresh salads and fish. The heat encourages you to drink more water and eat fresh local fruit. Have a pitcher of your own spa water on hand. Simply fill with water and slice up a favorite fruit, chill and sip. Once you shift eating habits to more fruits, vegetables, lean protein and more water this summer, you will transfer them to fall and winter; in fact, you will crave this fare.
  6. Summer brings longer daylight hours which energize you. However, instead of doing more chores, you reward yourself with more fun and me time. Hmmm, this last tip is the best one of all. Once you take care of yourself and behave like a healthy narcissist, you have arrived at the root of which all stress-management is based.

What are some of your favorite relaxing summer activities? Let me know in the comments section!

Larry King’s 25-Year Campaign for Heart Disease Awareness

557px-LarryKingSept10_(cropped)Much has changed since 1988, when Michael Jackson topped the billboard charts, Ronald Regan occupied the White House, and Mikhail Gorbachev launched perestroika. Then, as now, Larry King’s interviews have illuminated the notable personalities, popular culture, and geopolitics of our times. It was also back in 1988 that Larry King began shining a light on another kind of big presence in many lives: heart disease.

After surviving quintuple bypass surgery in 1987, thanks to excellent doctors and a good insurance plan, Larry King felt grateful. He knew that others weren’t so lucky and so, to help those less fortunate, he founded the Larry King Cardiac Foundation (LKCF). For the past 25 years, the Foundation has helped uninsured individuals with heart conditions receive life-saving treatment. To date, thousands of families have benefited.

Over the past quarter decade, the healthcare landscape has shifted dramatically, however. Here in the United States, we face daily news about the soaring rates of adult and child obesity. In the backdrop of this, the Affordable Care Act is set to reshape the issue of the uninsured. Regardless, one thing that’s absolutely clear is that winning the battle against heart disease will require us to marshal the forces of collective action on a whole new level.

The good news is that there are countless organizations and individuals who are making a positive impact on heart heath in small and large ways – from physicians and hospitals to organic farmers, moms, and neighborhood walk organizers. With that inspiration in mind, Larry and his wife LKCF Chair Shawn King are expanding the scope of their original mission to shine the light on these everyday heart heroes, while still providing direct services to heart patients.

The Kings recognize that providing emergency cardiac care is the end game – i.e., the critical difference between life and death for some. But boosting prevention and healthy habits is the very definition of universal care for each and every one of us. We know so much more now about how to reduce the risk of heart disease. Plus, we are more keenly aware of the dire economic impact to families and our nation as a whole of doing nothing to turn the tide.

From First Lady Michelle Obama’s “Let’s Move” campaign to local activists all across America, we have the tools and troops we need to meet the prevention challenge. The LKCF wants boost that grassroots energy and spread it far and wide. To do so, the Kings will leverage the power of – and their access to – digital, social, and traditional media to spread the word and accelerate the impact of innovators, who are saving hearts everyday through the promotion of better nutrition, more exercise, stress reduction, and other positive steps to healthier living. By using creative outlets to expand the national conversation, the LKCF will give as much airtime and applause to everyday heart heroes as can be mustered.

As the new LKCF president, I’m excited to help refine what it means to have a heart to heart, and get the word out. We hope you’ll do your part in ensuring a more vital future by sharing these stories and watching them grow. Here are a few that deserve a big shout out:

Heidi Katherine Uzelac is a recent high school graduate who spearheads a wonderful annual event that turns fundraising and information sharing around heart health into a team effort. June 1st will be Heidi’s second annual Heartchase Scavenger Hunt. It’s a city-wide race in Beverly Hills that sends groups of 2-5 out across the community to complete “heart healthy” challenges. If you can’t join the fun in person, consider jumping in online with some support. Game On!

Francie Randolph founded Sustainable CAPE to demonstrate the direct link between local food, wellness, and protection of precious land and water resources. She also uses games to educate school kids and families to become agents of change, who take charge of their own health and the health of the planet. These things are, of course, connected, and events like the Zucchini 500 vegetable race bring delicious together with sustainable and joyful. Tasty goodness!

For a bit more on happy steps to a good life, check out Spirit of Women, which uses dance to encourage more women to stay healthy, get moving, and participate in health screenings. Day of Dance events happen all across the county – learn the moves, live longer, and smile doing it!

 

Related Articles:

10 Things You Probably Didn’t Know About Calcium and Dairy

What’s the Deal with Salt? New Report Suggests We’ve Been Worrying Too Much

Why Cooking Will Save Our Lives in the Face of Obesity, Diabetes, and Addiction

What’s the Deal with Salt? New Report Suggests We’ve Been Worrying Too Much

nobodylistensWe have long been warned about the dangers of sodium, including the frightening risks of heart attack, stroke, and cardiovascular disease. But according to a new report commissioned by the Institute of Medicine under the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, these warnings may be misguided.

Moderation in all things is wise, but according to the expert panel, there is no need to limit sodium beyond about 2,300 milligrams a day. As reported by the New York Times, chairman of the committee Dr. Brian L. Strom confirmed, “As you go below the 2,300 mark, there is an absence of data in terms of benefit and there begin to be suggestions in subgroup populations about potential harms.” These “potential harms” include increased rate of heart attacks and risk of death – exactly counter to what was previously believed!

The average daily intake of sodium in America is roughly 3,400 milligrams, equivalent to about 1.5 teaspoons of salt. US dietary guidelines have traditionally encouraged people to aim for 1,500 to 2,300 milligrams of sodium a day. To put that in perspective, if your day’s eating included two eggs for breakfast, a peanut butter sandwich for lunch, yogurt and an apple as a snack, salmon and rice for dinner, and a chocolate chip cookie for dessert (and you haven’t added any salt, sauces, or toppings), you would have only consumed just under 800 milligrams of sodium. Once you start piling on fast food, condiments, processed snacks and the like, that number will easily spike up. One cup of canned chicken noodle soup has over 1,100 milligrams of sodium…So you can see our point.

If there’s no need to heavily limit sodium anyways, though, then what’s keeping us from an all-out salt binge? The first question on our minds was: are there any conflicts of interest in this report? If the organization sponsoring the panel were simultaneously receiving funding from Coke, say, or a fast food corporation, we would have cause to be skeptical. The Institute of Medicine, however, is a non-profit, non-governmental organization, and their mission is to provide the most rigorous and unbiased health information possible.

Either way, this new information about sodium should not act as an open invitation to load your plate with table salt. If you maintain a healthy, balanced diet, then continue doing whatever you’re doing! If you’ve been stressing about sodium all your life, maybe relax a bit on that and focus more on eating wholesome food that fills and nourishes you. If you have eating habits you’d like to shake, then stay positive and set some realistic goals for yourself. At the end of the day, healthy eating is easier and a lot more fun than counting this or that.

What do you think of these findings? Let us know your thoughts in the comments section below!

Weekly Health Tip: Soluble Fiber: Your Heart’s Best Friend

Visualization is courtesy of TheVisualMD.com

Brought to you by Deepak Chopra, MD, Alexander Tsiaras, and TheVisualMD.com

"Oatmeal is good for you heart." You hear that a lot, and not just from oatmeal companies. Many cardiologists and other health professionals recommend starting the day with a bowl of oats. There’s a good reason: Oatmeal is one of many foods that contains soluble fiber, a substance that can help your heart by reducing the amount of LDL cholesterol (also know as "bad" cholesterol) in your blood (1). Research shows that a moderate increase in the amount of soluble fiber in a person’s diet is likely to lower his or her risk of developing heart disease. It can also slow the progression of heart disease once it has begun. That’s not all: Soluble fiber can help lower the risk of developing diabetes. And the benefits of a diet rich in soluble fiber apply to children as well as adults. A 2009 study showed that soluble fiber helps reduce a child’s risk for future chronic diseases including cancer, heart disease and diabetes by helping to maintain normal blood sugar and blood pressure levels (2).

A Sponge for Cholesterol What exactly is soluble fiber, and how does it work its magic? Fiber is the part of a plant food that your body cannot digest. It travels intact through your stomach, intestines and colon and exits from your body. There are two kinds of fiber, and both are good for you. Insoluble fiber, which does not dissolve in water, adds bulk to the material moving through your digestive system and is good at relieving constipation. It’s found in whole wheat, nuts and many vegetables. Soluble fiber, as the name implies, dissolves in water, forming a gel-like substance. In addition to oats, soluble fiber can be found in beans, barley, flaxseed and certain vegetables and fruits.

Scientists aren’t sure exactly how soluble fiber reduces the LDL or "bad" cholesterol in your blood, but they suspect it works like this: Soluble fiber acts like a cholesterol "sponge" by soaking up cholesterol-laden bile salts in the small intestine and eliminating these salts along with waste. That not only removes harmful cholesterol from your body, it also keeps bile acids from being "recycled" back to the liver. As a result, the liver must produce new bile acids, and to do that, it pulls LDL cholesterol out of the bloodstream (1). That reduces "bad" cholesterol levels even further, which is good news for your heart: If there’s less bad cholesterol floating around in your bloodstream, it means there’s less that can collect on the walls of the arteries, where it increases the risk of heart attack and stroke.

Other Health Benefits The benefit of soluble fiber doesn’t stop with cholesterol reduction. Soluble fiber can also lower triglycerides — fats in the blood that contribute to heart disease. According to a 2010 study, it may also help reduce blood pressure and that’s good for your heart health (3, 4). Soluble fiber can also benefit people at risk for diabetes by regulating blood sugar. It slows down the body’s absorption of sugar, reducing the risk of developing Type 2 diabetes and helping to control existing cases of diabetes (4, 5). If that’s not impressive enough, emerging research shows that certain forms of soluble fiber may enhance the body’s immune function (2).

Foods With Fiber Does this make you want to eat more soluble fiber? It should. And if you’re like many Americans, you probably need to boost your intake of both kinds of fiber, soluble and insoluble. On average, children and adults in the U.S. consume less than half of the recommended amount of fiber. The USDA suggests that adult women get about 28 grams of total dietary fiber a day and adult men consume 36 grams a day. Children one year and older should consume 14 grams for every 1,000 calories in their diet (2).

At least 5 to 10 grams of your total daily fiber intake should consist of soluble fiber if you want to reap its cholesterol-lowering benefits, advises the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) in its guidelines for a heart-healthy diet (6). That translates into about 1 ½ cups of cooked oatmeal (6 g of soluble fiber) plus a serving of fruit, such as apples or bananas (4 grams of soluble fiber). If you’re not a fan of oatmeal, there are lots of other tasty ways to get soluble fiber into your diet. Pears, citrus fruits and legumes such as kidney beans, peas, carrots, barley and psyllium (seed husks) are all good sources (4, 5). Try to avoid processed foods like pulp-free juice and canned fruits and vegetables and substitute fresh high-fiber ones instead. While packaged fiber supplements are an option, it’s best to get your fiber fix from food sources, since you get the additional benefits of vitamins, minerals and other nutrients. Whether you get your soluble fiber by starting the day with oat-based cereal, or munching on apples, beans or barley as the day progresses, your body will thank you from the bottom of its heart.

Learn more about the benefits of fiber:

TheVisualMD.com: Fiber helps lower cholesterol

References

1. The American Journal of Clinical Nutrition

2. Nutritional Reviews

3. American Heart Association

4. Mayo Clinic

5. TheVisualMD.com

6. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / abbyladybug

Weekly Health Tip: New Reasons to Brush and Floss

p>Visualization is courtesy of TheVisualMD.com

 

Brought to you by Deepak Chopra, MD, Alexander Tsiaras, and TheVisualMD.com

Taking good care of your teeth at every stage of life is a good way to avoid painful toothaches, expensive trips to the dentist and tooth loss in old age. But there is another powerful reason to practice good oral health: It can affect the health of your whole body. Research shows that the bacteria that cause tooth decay and gum disease in your mouth may also play a role in heart disease and stroke. And there is some evidence that tooth loss before age 35 may be a risk factor for Alzheimer’s disease. (1)

The Mouth/Body Connection What does brushing and flossing have to do with the rest of your body? Your mouth is the gateway to your body — and it’s not a very pristine gateway. It’s filled with bacteria — in fact, there are more bacteria living in your mouth than there are people on earth. (2) Most of these bacteria are harmless, and good oral care plus the body’s immune system can keep the bad bacteria in check. But if you neglect oral health — or if your immune system is weakened — harmful bacteria can multiply. In just one day they can colonize every surface of your mouth and form a sticky substance called plaque on the surfaces of your teeth. Over time, acids in the plaque can cause cavities and gum disease. But the bacteria in your mouth can do damage elsewhere, too.

If you have gum disease or cuts in your gums from dental work, oral bacteria can enter your bloodstream and cause infection in your heart or lungs. Oral bacteria may also attach to fatty buildup in your arteries, increasing the chances of stroke or heart attack. Some research suggests that if your mouth is chronically inflamed due to severe gum disease, inflammation may cause swelling elsewhere in your body, including your arteries. It may also contribute to rheumatoid arthritis. Poor oral health probably won’t give you heart disease or other diseases. But if you already have risk factors for certain diseases, it can increase your chances of getting them. (1, 2)

Beyond Brushing The rate of tooth decay in the U.S. has actually improved over the past 30 years due to advances in oral health care. But there is still a long way to go. Tooth decay is the most common chronic disease among kids and teenagers, and most adults show signs of gum disease. (3) The good news: There’s a lot you can do to improve your oral health — and by extension, support your overall health. The minimum is to brush and floss twice a day. Follow these additional tips and do your mouth — and your body — a favor.

1. Brush up on brushing (and flossing). Research shows that the average person spends about one minute brushing their teeth. In the process, they remove about 60 percent of the plaque. By investing a little more time and not much effort, you can do better. Aim for two minutes of brushing time. Brush the tooth surfaces nearest your tongue first, since they are more at risk for decay and you tend to brush best when you first start. Use a soft-bristled brush and fluoride toothpaste, and replace your toothbrush when the bristles look worn (about every three to four months). If you want to do an even better job, consider using a powered toothbrush. It does a better job of reaching the areas between your teeth, where the risk of decay is greatest. Careful flossing can remove some of this interdental plaque, but you can get even better results by using a small, interdental brush and toothpaste to scrub the inner surfaces of your teeth. (4, 5)

2. Rinse. Consider using an antimicrobial mouth rinse. Your teeth make up only about 20 percent of the surface area in your mouth. But harmful bacteria live in the other 80 percent too — on your tongue, gums and other tissues, and in your saliva. Antimicrobial mouth rinse kills bacteria that are not on your teeth, but could easily move there. It also prevents and reduces plaque on tooth surfaces that are hard to reach with a brush or floss. (6)

3. Eat a healthy diet and limit snacks. If you eat five fiber-rich fruits and vegetables a day, it not only benefits your overall health, it also stimulates saliva flow in your mouth, and that helps remineralize tooth surfaces where decay is just beginning. Avoid snacks that are packed with sugar or starches. (3)

4. Avoid tobacco and limit your intake of alcohol. Smokers have a four times greater risk of developing gum disease than non-smokers. And tobacco use in any form — including smokeless tobacco — increases the risk of gum disease and oral and throat cancers. Heavy use of alcohol also increases your risk of oral and throat cancers, and the risk gets even higher when you use alcohol and tobacco together.

(3) Focus on Kids Research shows that exposure to plaque over a person’s lifetime may be the key risk factor in dental diseases. (7) Helping your children develop good oral health habits early on will pay dividends for the rest of their lives. Talk to your dentist about the best way to protect your child’s teeth and ask about dental sealants that can protect young teeth from decay. Encourage your kids to eat healthy snacks. And be aware of hidden dangers in their diet. For instance, sour candies may seem like a good choice because they contain less sugar than sweet candies. But in fact, their high acid content is very damaging to teeth. Sports drinks are also loaded with acid, but the danger doesn’t stop there: Studies show that prolonged exposure to these drinks softens a child’s dental tissue and tooth enamel. If your child consumes these candies or beverages, it’s best to rinse with water soon after, and wait 45 minutes before brushing, since abrasive toothpaste can further erode the softened enamel. (8)

Learn more about maintaining your health and well-being:

TheVisualMD.com: The 9 Visual Rules of Wellness

References

1. Mayo Clinic

2. TheVisualMD.com

3. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention

4. Claydon N. Current concepts in toothbrushing and interdental cleaning. Periodontology 2000. 2008;48:10-22.

5. Yost KG, Mallatt ME, Liebman J. Interproximal gingivitis and plaque reduction by four inter-dental products. J Clin Dent. 2006;17:79-83.

6. Gurenlian JR, The role of dental plaque biofilm in oral health. J Dent Hyg. 2007; (suppl):4-12.

7. Boyens JV, Poulton R, Broadbent JM, et al. Dental plaque and oral health during the first 32 years of life. J Am Dent Assoc. 2011;142:415-426.

8. American Dental Hygienists’ Association

Weekly Health Tip: It’s Heart Health Month!

 

Brought to you by Deepak Chopra, MD, Alexander Tsiaras, and TheVisualMD.com

Chances are, you will never have a heart attack. If you know your family history of heart disease, keep track of your blood pressure, and stick to healthful habits, your miraculous cardiovascular system should sustain you through a long, productive life. But there’s always the possibility that you or someone close to you will feel the early warning signs of a heart attack. Being able to identify those signs and take the right action immediately could save a life. During a heart attack, a blockage in the arteries starves the heart of the oxygen it needs to do its job. Left untreated for too long, the heart muscle begins to break down, sometimes suffering permanent damage and eventually causing death. But men and women can feel dramatically different symptoms when a heart attack begins. Women are more likely than men to have undetected "silent" heart attacks, that may involve nausea, fatigue and pain in the arm, back or jaw. Men are more likely to experience severe chest pain and heart pounding. Because women’s symptoms are more subtle and distinct from men’s symptoms, those who have heart attacks are less likely to get a prompt diagnosis and seek treatment. Some wait to see if their symptoms improve, sometimes for hours after the first twinge of discomfort. There is no upside in waiting out the early warning signs.

Learn more about keeping track of your heart health:

TheVisualMD.com: Baseline Your Health

 

 

 

Weekly Health Tip: Blood Pressure Basics

 

Brought to you by Deepak Chopra, MD, Alexander Tsiaras, and TheVisualMD.com

Every time your heart beats, its power propels blood through your arteries as it begins its journey to the rest of your body. Your blood pressure is the force exerted by blood against your arteries with each beat. When your doctor measures your blood pressure, the reading is made up of two numbers. The first is called systolic pressure. It is the pressure while the heart is contracting. The second, smaller number is called the diastolic pressure. That’s the pressure against the arteries when your heart is at rest. (The numbers represent pressure units in millimeters of mercury, or mmHg.) So a normal blood pressure reading of 120 mmHg systolic and 80 mmHg diastolic is expressed as "120 over 80." Both the systolic and diastolic blood pressure are important indicators of your cardiovascular health. Your risk of heart attack, stroke and other ailments rises with your blood pressure reading. The American Heart Association reports that about 69 percent of people who have a first heart attack and 77 percent who have a first stroke turn out to have blood pressure higher than 140 over 90. And when high blood pressure, or hypertension, combines with high cholesterol, the risks skyrocket.

Learn more about the importance of your blood pressure readings:

TheVisualMD.com: Baseline Your Health

PHOTO (cc): Flickr / jasleen_kaur

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