Connection between your mouth and your heart

Published On: Jan 03 2013 07:32:03 PM PST   Updated On: Jan 15 2013 12:25:34 PM PST
Braces on teeth

By Pure Matters

Remember that song about how the foot bone is connected to the leg bone and on and on, all the way up to the head bone? Kids have fun singing about these obvious anatomical relationships, but sometimes the connections between body parts are more surprising. Here's how to use your mouth to keep your heart healthy.

Make your dessert dark chocolate. Yes, we're giving you permission to eat candy. Dark chocolate is packed with heart-friendly antioxidants. It may also lower levels of bad LDL cholesterol and help raise levels of good HDL cholesterol. One more thing: Chemicals in dark chocolate help reduce blood clotting and increase blood-vessel flexibility, decreasing the chance of a heart attack. But don't go crazy -- all you need to get the benefits without too much fat is one half ounce daily. Make sure it contains at least 70 percent cocoa (it'll say on the label).

Take care of your teeth. Columbia University doctors have found that people whose mouths contain a high number of the bacteria that cause gum disease are more likely to have plaque-clogged arteries. To protect your teeth (and heart), brush twice a day, floss once a day, and swish your mouth out with an antimicrobial rinse. Don't forget to see your dentist for a checkup and cleaning twice a year.

Go fishing. Loaded with omega-3s that help prevent cardiovascular disease, fish oil lowers triglycerides, wards off artery-clogging plaque, and keeps blood pressure low. If you eat one or two servings of fatty fish (such as salmon, herring, or mackerel) each week, you're getting enough fish oil to benefit your heart. If not, you'll benefit from a supplement.

Engage in healthy venting. In a National Institutes of Health study, men who internalized their anger were more likely to suffer hardened arteries and high blood pressure than those who vented. It's a fatal chain reaction: Being perpetually angry increases stress hormones, which boosts blood pressure and damages arterial walls.

Butt out. Putting a cigarette to your lips can do more than just make your breath smelly. Compared with nonsmokers, smokers suffer heart attacks twice as much.

Limit the drinks. Men who have more than two drinks a day have an increased risk of heart disease. For women, the risk escalates by consuming more than one a day. Those who binge drink are in an even higher risk group.

Pass on the salt. There's a simple equation: The more salt you eat, the shorter your life, according to researchers at the University of Helsinki. They reviewed more than a dozen studies and found that people who reduced their sodium intake by 30 percent lived an average of seven years longer than those whose sodium intake remained high. Salt increases blood pressure and causes your body to retain water, which makes your heart work lots harder than it should. Still need that salty flavor? Create a mixture that's 65 percent table salt, 25 percent Morton Salt Substitute (potassium chloride), and 10 percent Epsom. You won't taste the difference, but your heart will thank you.