ALLERGY, RESPIRATORY
Know Your Asthma Triggers
Molecule in Skin May Link Eczema and Asthma
Keep Asthma, Allergies at Bay for the Holidays
ALTERNATIVE MEDICINE
Health Tip: Anticipating Acupuncture
Cranberries May Help Prevent Urinary Tract Infections
Alternative Treatments May Boost IVF Success
ANIMAL CARE
Separation Anxiety, Canine-Style
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
Safe Toys for Dogs
BONES & JOINTS
Yoga Can Ease Lower Back Pain
Rheumatoid Arthritis Rising Among U.S. Women
Studies Struggle to Gauge Glucosamine's Worth
CANCER
Adding Garlic Might Cut Cancer Risk
Many Cancer Patients Turn to Complementary Medicine
Many Ignore Symptoms of Bladder Trouble
CAREGIVING
Many Alzheimer's Caregivers Admit to Abusive Behavior
What Moms Learned May Be Passed to Offspring
With Age Comes Greater Risk of Hypothermia
CIRCULATORY SYSTEM
Salt Boosts Blood Pressure in High-Risk Patients
Firefighters Have Narrower-Than-Normal Arteries, Study Finds
Common Antioxidant Might Slow Parkinson's
COSMETIC
Contact Lenses Boost Kids' Self-Image
Gum Chewing May Cut Craving for Snacks
New Genetic Links to Baldness Discovered
DENTAL, ORAL
Obesity Boosts Gum Disease Risk
Rheumatoid Arthritis May Harm Gums
Most Insured Adults Worry About Health Care Costs: Poll
DIABETES
Diabetes Linked to Cognitive Problems
Chamomile Tea May Ward Off Diabetes Damage
Study Shows Turmeric May Prevent Type 2 Diabetes
DIET, NUTRITION
Atkins Diet Tougher on Heart After Weight Loss
Iced Teas Pose High Risk of Kidney Stones
Low-Fat Diet Does Little to Alter Cholesterol Levels
DISABILITIES
Review Finds Marijuana May Help MS Patients
Could Your Cell Phone Help Shield You From Alzheimer's?
ENVIRONMENTAL HEALTH
Global Warming Linked to Heightened Kidney Stone Risk
Air Pollution May Cause Appendicitis: Study Reveals
Household Insecticides May Be Linked to Autoimmune Diseases
EYE CARE, VISION
Americans Losing Sight of Eye Health
Drinking Green Tea May Protect Eyes
Glaucoma Treatment Can Prevent Blindness
FITNESS
Will the Wii Keep You Fit?
Maximize Your Run
Study Shows Exercise Shields Against Osteoporosis
GASTROINTESTINAL PROBLEMS
Soothing Imagery May Help Rid Some Kids of Stomach Pain
HRT Use Raises Risk of Stomach Trouble
Japanese Herbals May Ease Gastro Woes
GENERAL HEALTH
The Brain Comes Alive With the Sounds of Music
Most Fast-Food French Fries Cooked in Unhealthiest Oil
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
HEAD & NECK
Ski Helmets Encouraged for All
Many Children Will Outgrow Headaches
Zen May Thicken Brain, Thwart Pain
HEALTH & TECHNOLOGY
E-Mailing Your Way to Healthier Habits
Airport Full Body Scanners Pose No Health Threat: Experts
'Comfort Dogs' Come to Emotional Rescue
HEARING
Noise Hurts Men's Hearing More, Study Shows
Summer Sounds Can Lead to Hearing Loss
HEART & CARDIOVASCULAR
Irregular Heartbeat Tied to Alzheimer's Disease
Dark Chocolate May Lower Stroke Risk
Ingredient in Dark Chocolate Could Guard Against Stroke
INFECTIOUS DISEASE
Swine Flu Now Reported in All 50 States
Bacterial Infections May Succumb to Honey
Swine Flu Is Now a Pandemic Says W.H.O.
INFERTILITY
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
KID'S HEALTH
Working Intensely Early on May Help Autistic Kids
Mom's Extra Pregnancy Pounds May Raise Child's Heart Risks
Safety Should Be Priority for Those Involved in Kids' Sports
MEN'S HEALTH
Exercise May Prevent Prostate Cancer: Study Shows
Lots of Sex May Prevent Erectile Dysfunction
Vigorous Exercise Cuts Stroke Risk for Men, Not Women
MENTAL HEALTH
Consciousness Helps the Mind and Body Work Together
Teen Internet Addicts More Likely to Self-Harm: Study
Living Alone Increases Odds of Developing Dementia
PAIN
Are We Exercising Pain Away? Not So Much.
'Cell Phone Elbow' -- A New Ill for the Wired Age
Acupuncture, Real or Fake, Eases Back Pain
PHYSICAL THERAPY
PREGNANCY
Music of Mozart Soothes the Preemie Baby
Pre-Pregnancy Weight Linked to Babies' Heart Problems
Obesity May Affect Fertility in Young Womene
SENIORS
15-Point Test Gauges Alzheimer's Risk
Older People at Greater Risk of Swine Flu Death
Friends, Not Grandkids, Key to Happy Retirement
SEXUAL HEALTH
SLEEP DISORDERS
Meditation May Help Put Primary Insomnia to Bed
Sleeping Could Help Women Lose The Baby Fat
Daylight Savings: Not a Bright Time for All
WOMEN'S HEALTH
Steady Weight Gain Boosts Late-Life Breast Cancer Risk
Supplements Might Reduce Breast Cancer Risk
Lifting Weights Can Ease Arm Swelling in Breast Cancer Survivors
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An Oral Approach to Heart Disease

THURSDAY, Sept. 11 (HealthDay News) -- Irish researchers are trying to develop a new way of attacking heart disease -- through the mouth.

"We are trying to understand the mechanisms by which oral bacteria colonies can lead to cardiovascular disease," said Steve Kerrigan of the Royal College of Surgeons in Dublin, and the principal investigator in a group that will report on the effort Thursday at the Society for General Microbiology meeting in Dublin.

People with poor dental hygiene, especially those with bleeding gums, are prey to more than 700 different types of oral bacteria, Kerrigan noted. "When those bacteria get into the bloodstream, they interact with platelets, the blood cells that can clump. The bacteria can cause them to clump together to form clots that can partially block blood vessels," he said.

Kerrigan and his colleagues, including Dr. Howard F. Jenkinson of the University of Bristol, have been investigating the cell surface proteins that allow bacteria to interact with cell platelets.

"We are trying to find new drugs that prevent this interaction," Kerrigan said. "The treatment now for this condition is aggressive antibiotic treatment. With all the controversy about antibiotic-resistant bacteria that is emerging, it would be best not to use antibiotics. If we find the ways the bacteria are causing the platelets to clump, it would be a new treatment target."

Analysis of the genes of streptococci often found in the mouth has identified a number of proteins responsible for the adherence of bacteria to platelets, Kerrigan said. "We have a few targets that we are researching just now," he said. "We have some good leads at the moment, and are trying to refine what we have found."

While "there is no definitive study that shows a cause-and-effect relationship between periodontal disease and heart disease," said Sally Cram, a Washington, D.C. periodontist who is a consumer adviser to the American Dental Association, "we have a number of studies coming out that indicate a strong relationship between infection in the mouth and gums and other things in your health, such as diabetes and heart disease."

Even although the case may not be completely proven, she added, "I tell my patients that, given that periodontal disease is preventable by doing certain things that take five minutes a day, it is worth doing those things."

Cram's recommendations are standard: brush twice a day, floss once a day, see a dentist regularly or when signs of trouble appear.

"Especially if there is a family history of heart disease or diabetes, it makes common sense to help prevent gum disease," she said.

Good oral hygiene is a necessity because bacteria easily get into the bloodstream from the mouth, from routine activities such as chewing and from tooth brushing, said Peter Lockhart, chairman of the department of oral medicine at the Carolinas Medical Center, in Charlotte, N.C.

Earlier this year, Lockhart published a study of 290 dental patients showing that bacteria could be detected in 23 percent of them after tooth brushing, compared to 30 percent when a tooth was pulled after the patient took an antibiotic and 60 percent when no antibiotic was taken.

So oral hygiene is "a much more appropriate focus for prevention of endocarditis," infection of the lining of the heart or a heart valve, Lockhart said.

- Ed Edelson

More information

Learn about periodontal disease and its prevention from the American Dental Association.



SOURCES: Steve Kerrigan, Ph.D., principal investigator, Royal College of Surgeons, Dublin; Sally Cram, D.D.S., periodontist, Washington D.C.; Peter Lockhart, chairman, oral medicine, Carolinas Medical Center, Charlotte, N.C; Sept. 10, 2008, presentation, Society for General Microbiology, Dublin, Ireland

Last Updated: Sept. 11, 2008

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