New research finds an intriguing link between undetected blood sugar disorders and the development of heart attacks and severe gum disease.
The latter is a major risk factor for the former, with data showing that people with diabetes are three times more likely to develop periodontitis.
Also, the risk of mortality from ischemic heart disease combined with diabetes-related kidney complications is three times higher in people who have both diabetes and severe periodontitis, compared with people who only have diabetes.
Dr. Anna Norhammar, who is a cardiologist and associate professor at Karolinska Institutet's Department of Medicine, in Solna, Sweden, led the new research. The results appear in the journal Diabetes Care.
Heart attack, periodontitis risk doubled
Dr. Norhammar and colleagues used data from a preexisting study called PAROKRANK, which included 805 participants who had experienced a heart attack — or myocardial infarction — and 805 age- and sex-matched healthy control participants.
The researchers took blood samples from the participants and examined their blood sugar control. Using X-rays, they also evaluated the participants' periodontal status.
After excluding people who had received an official diabetes diagnosis, the study focused on 712 people who had experienced a heart attack and 731 control participants.
The researchers classified the participants' blood sugar control using three categories: normal, reduced, and newly detected diabetes.
They then adjusted for age, sex, smoking status, education, and civil status.
The team applied logistic regression and found that participants who had experienced a heart attack were twice as likely to have undetected dysglycemia — which includes diabetes and poor glucose tolerance — as control participants.
"Undetected dysglycemia was independently associated to both [myocardial infarction] and severe [periodontitis]. In principal, it doubled the risk of a first [myocardial infarction] and of severe [periodontitis]," write the authors.
Undetected diabetes also correlated strongly with severe periodontitis. "This supports the hypothesis that dysglycemia drives two common diseases, [myocardial infarction] and [periodontal disease]," the authors conclude.
"Our findings indicate that dysglycemia is a key risk factor in both severe periodontitis and myocardial infarction and that the combination of severe periodontitis and undetected diabetes further increases the risk of myocardial infarction," says Dr. Norhammar.
However, the researchers also caution about the study's limitations, such as the low number of study participants who had severe periodontitis and undetected diabetes.
Medical News Today have reported on a range of other seemingly unrelated conditions that may be driven by gum disease.
"Our study shows that undetected glucose disorders are common in two major diseases — myocardial infarction and periodontitis," Dr. Norhammar emphasizes.
"Many people visit the dentist regularly and maybe it's worth considering taking routine blood sugar tests in patients with severe periodontitis, to catch these patients."
Dr. Anna Norhammar