Hello! So, the last article I wrote discussed the effects of diabetes and the effects that an unhealthy weight has on your blood sugar. (It’s interesting writing this article a day after Halloween considering that this holiday is all about candy, but I digress.) I think the key in all of these discussions is moderation.
But what does moderation really mean? If you Google it, you’ll find that moderation means “the avoidance of excess or extremes, especially in one’s behavior.” Do you think we do a good job of living in moderation?
I don’t think anyone is immune to this, as evidenced by the countless cases of addiction, alcoholism, obesity, long work hours — you name it. For our purposes, let’s discuss moderation when it comes to your health.
The first thing that comes to mind when I think of “good health” is having good numbers when taking blood tests, taking blood pressure, assessing cholesterol, looking at levels of blood cells, etc. What factors contribute to having good vs bad numbers? Would we all agree that diet, exercise, sleeping well, being a nonsmoker and managing daily stress are probably the most important factors to having “good health”?
If this is correct, then by basic deduction if you have all of these elements, a “normal” body mass index, you exercise regularly, you get your eight hours of sleep, you don’t smoke and you meditate, does that mean that you will automatically have good numbers and have good health?
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention discusses the key risk factors for heart disease, which include high blood pressure, high LDL cholesterol and smoking. Other risk factors include diabetes, being overweight, having a poor diet, physical inactivity and excessive alcohol use. These items keep coming up over and over.
But what they don’t discuss is the mechanisms by which these factors increase our risk for heart disease. Have you ever heard of a relatively healthy individual who exercises regularly, eats vegan and never smokes? I’m sure you know many people like this.
Have you also noticed hearing about a person like this who passes away at a very young age? Why is this the case when they have been doing everything right? Why did they go to the doctor and get a clean bill of health and then pass away so soon thereafter?
The answer, we believe, lies in the mechanism of inflammation. This is the huge buzzword in many communities because we need to start looking at disease in a different manner. Is it important to lose weight, eat healthy, quit smoking and exercise? Of course, but we need to be open to the idea that there are other factors at play.
Historically, heart disease has been treated by giving medications to control cholesterol and telling people to restrict fat intact. So what we have done instead? We have increased our consumption of carbohydrates and processed foods — foods that are taken far from their natural state.
This is where inflammation comes in. As we continue to invade our systems with items that really aren’t supposed to be there, our body tries to defend itself, which becomes what is termed “chronic inflammation.”
Without this inflammation, cholesterol itself wouldn’t attach to your vessel walls and cause heart attack and stroke. The cholesterol would roam freely in your system.
So, if you take a medication to help your cholesterol, will it help the cholesterol to not attach to the vessel wall? It doesn’t sound like it will. The key here is inflammation.
One of the causes of inflammation in the body is indeed periodontal disease or gum disease. People always seem to think that the mouth is separate from the body, but in reality, it makes sense that all parts of the body share one bloodstream. It is very interesting when you really think about it — at least to a geek like me.
In the next article I will discuss how something as simple as a toothbrush can help decrease your heart disease risk.
DR. PATRICIA BERUBE is a periodontist in private practice in Denton. For more information, visit www.dentonperio.com.