According to new research, older women who carry certain types of oral bacteria are at risk for developing high blood pressure, also known as hypertension. The study found that these oral microorganisms were associated with the development of this condition in postmenopausal women and could help explain why some people’s immune systems fight against them more than others do.
High blood pressure is a medical condition in which the upper number of systolic (the upper number measuring pressure when the heart beats) of 130 mm Hg or higher, and diastolic blood pressure (the lower number indicating pressure between heartbeats) of 80 mm Hg or higher. It can lead to cardiovascular disease and stroke if not treated properly to prevent clots from forming due to its effect on circulation throughout body organs.
This is the first study to examine how oral bacteria affect blood pressure prospectively. The researchers found that people with existing periodontal disease had higher rates of hypertension, but this may be partly due to their dental health rather than directly related to the bacteria.
A few prior studies have indicated an association between bacteria. However, these were primarily cross-sectional (meaning snapshot) without any information on the frequency or quality of orally consumed foods that may interfere with oral bacteria.
For the study, researchers examined data from 1,215 postmenopausal women who had an average age of 63 years old at study enrollment. Researchers looked at records between 1997 and 2001 from the Buffalo Osteoporosis and Periodontal Disease Study in Buffalo, New York. Researchers recorded blood pressure and collected oral plaque from below the gum line at study enrollment. Medication use and medical and lifestyle histories were also assessed to help find if there is a link between oral bacteria and hypertension in older women.
Researchers found that ten bacteria were associated with a 10% to 16% higher risk of developing high blood pressure. Five other bacteria were associated with a 9% to 18% lower hypertension risk.
All results remained consistent after considering demographic, clinical, and lifestyle factors, including treatment for high cholesterol, older age, smoking, and dietary intake.
“Since periodontal disease and hypertension are especially prevalent in older adults, if a relationship between the oral bacteria and hypertension risk could be established, there may be an opportunity to enhance hypertension prevention through increased, targeted oral care,” said Michael J. LaMonte, Ph.D., M.P.H., one of the study’s senior authors.
Blood pressure should be monitored throughout life to help detect any possible health problems. If hypertension is established, it is vital to make lifestyle changes to help reduce the risks associated with the condition.
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