Keeping tabs on blood pressure and cholesterol is a lot like shampooing your hair but skipping the conditioner. The job’s only half done. Your numbers look okay, so you assume your heart is safe. But is it really?
New evidence reveals that little-known threats could still be setting you up for big trouble. Yet your doctor may never mention these hidden risks.
The reassuring news is that taking control can be as easy as snacking on walnuts (instead of processed snack foods) or taking your multivitamin every day. Here’s what you need to know about one of these important risk factors.
This chemical is produced in the liver when some part of your body is inflamed. Consistently high levels of C-reactive protein, or CRP, can raise your risk of heart disease even if your cholesterol readings are healthy, report researchers at the Center for cardiovascular Disease Prevention at the Brigham and Woman’s Hospital in Boston. High CRP is a warning signal that plaque is building up in artery walls.
So what causes high levels of CRP? Mostly, low-grade infections in your body, such as gum disease, and other ongoing irritants that keep your immune system constantly doing battle. This is the “chronic inflammation” problem that is increasingly being talked about in health circles.
What is your CRP level? To find out, ask your doctor for a high-sensitivity CRP test the next time you’re getting a blood sugar or cholesterol check. If numbers seem high, get retested in two weeks. A cold or flu could skew your reading because inflammation levels will be temporarily high.
Here are some ways to tame your CRP:
Make all your sandwiches on whole grain bread
A study from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention in Atlanta shows that getting 32 grams of fiber per day could slash CRP levels by half. You’ll get there if you also choose high fiber cereals, beans and lentils, and whole-grain pasta.
Snack on a handful of walnuts instead of a candy bar
Rich in fiber and “good” omega-3 fatty acids, these nuts slash CRP levels and cut heart risk.
Bush, Floss, and rinse every day
Even tiny pockets of gum disease increase inflammation levels throughout your body, raising your odds for heart attacks and even strokes. Studies show that pampering your gums by brushing carefully, flossing well, then rinsing with a gum-protecting mouthwash are important steps that not only brighten your smile, but also protect your cardiovascular system.
Now that we can see how your heart health is connected to dental health, how do you know if you have gum disease?
Here are some things to look for:
Like any part of your body, there should be expected some tonal variations throughout the body, however, when it comes to the color of gum tissue, generally speaking, it should be some variance of pink.
Usually your gums should have a tight, flat appearance where they seem to be hugging your teeth.
Healthy Gums do not bleed. Period. While nobody wants to admit to having unhealthy gums, the fact remains that the vast majority of our gums bleed when we go to the dentist, or floss, or sometimes even just brush too hard. Aside from blunt trauma, healthy gums won’t ever bleed, just like your skin won’t suddenly spring a cut unless it is in fact, cut. Bleeding in the absence of trauma is almost a guaranteed sign of infection.
If you haven’t seen your dentist in a while, it may just be time now to pick up the phone and make and appointment today. Your heart may depend on it!
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