Hypertension: Oral bacteria raise blood pressure

People with hypertension have an increased risk of stroke and heart disease. Researchers behind a new study have found a link between certain types of oral bacteria and the risk of high blood pressure in women who have gone through menopause. Researchers link specific bacteria to both baseline blood pressure and the risk of developing hypertension. The study is published in the Journal of the American Heart Association.

Hypertension and the microbiome

Blood pressure is the pressure of the blood pushing against the walls of the arteries. It’s normal for blood pressure to rise and fall throughout the day, but if it stays high, it can lead to health problems. A person with high blood pressure is more likely to have a stroke or develop heart disease. This condition particularly affects the elderly and women.

The researchers noted that despite the existence of evidence-based approaches to preventing and reducing hypertension, it is still widespread. That’s why research continues to understand why people develop hypertension and how to fix it.

According to the scientists, the relationship between the microbiome and the risk of hypertension deserves further study. The microbiome is a collection of microbes, primarily bacteria, that live in and on a person’s body. Scientists are finding increasing evidence that the microbiome plays a role in maintaining good health. There is evidence that the gut microbiome affects an individual’s risk of hypertension. In the current study, however, the researchers focused on the oral microbiome and its relationship to hypertension risk.

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More than 1,000 attendees

The researchers relied on the Buffalo Osteoporosis and Periodontal Disease Study. They looked at data from 1,215 women who had experienced menopause, with an average age of 63 when they enrolled in the study between 1997 and 2001. When enrolling the participants, the researchers took samples from their oral bacteria below the gumline and measured their blood pressure. They also took participants’ medical histories and recorded the medications they were taking. At the start of the study, 40% of participants were taking blood pressure medication. About half of the participants who did not have hypertension or were not receiving treatment for it at baseline were diagnosed with hypertension and treated during the average follow-up of 10 years.

Link between bacteria and hypertension

After analyzing the oral bacteria samples, the researchers identified 10 species that they associated with an increased risk of hypertension, ranging from a 10 to 16 percent increase. The researchers also found a link between five bacteria and a 9-18% lower risk of high blood pressure. With the exception of two bacteria, these results held even when the researchers took into account age and other lifestyle and clinical confounders.

The exact mechanisms by which specific oral bacteria might influence blood pressure, for better or for worse, are not entirely clear. Scientists hypothesize that the ability of certain oral bacteria to convert dietary nitrate into nitrite, which is then converted in the gut to nitric oxide, a potent chemical responsible for relaxing and dilating the arteries, is a probable possibility.

Also, oral bacteria can escape from the mouth and travel through the bloodstream to other parts of the body. One such place where oral bacteria have been found is the arterial wall, encapsulated in atherosclerotic plaques. Atherosclerosis leads to stiffening of the arteries, which has the effect of increasing blood pressure. It is therefore possible that there is a link between oral bacteria and arterial atherosclerosis.

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“Of course, there is always the possibility that our discovery is the result of chance. It will be important to know if other studies looking at this question find consistent or different results,” said Professor LaMonte.

To maintain a healthy oral microbiome, care should be taken to:

– brush your teeth twice a day with fluoridated toothpaste
– use dental floss daily
– adopt a healthy diet by limiting sugary drinks and snacks
– consult a dentist regularly for the prevention and treatment of oral diseases.


Oral Microbiome Is Associated With Incident Hypertension Among Postmenopausal Women

Guideline for the Prevention, Detection, Evaluation, and Management of High Blood Pressure in Adults: Executive Summary: A Report of the American College of Cardiology/American Heart Association Task Force on Clinical Practice Guidelines

Report of the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute Working Group on the Role of Microbiota in Blood Pressure Regulation


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