Heart patients and people with high cholesterol are commonly prescribed high-dose statins to help lower cholesterol and fight the inflammatory condition atherosclerosis which can cause heart attacks and strokes. However, a team of researchers has discovered that high-dose statins may also be effective against periodontal disease by reducing inflammation in the gums. The results of this study were published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology.
According to co-author Dr. Ahmed Tawkol, co-director of the Cardiac Imaging Trials Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School, “Periodontal disease is characterized by chronic gum inflammation and affects approximately 50% of the US adult population. Periodontitis and atherosclerosis are both primarily driven by inflammation. These inflammatory conditions tend to co-exist within individuals and their biologies may be intertwined.”
The Study: Statins
For this double-blind study, the research team assigned 83 adult patients with heart disease or a high risk of heart disease a dose of either 80 mg statin or 10 mg statin to take daily for 12 weeks. Each patient underwent PET/CT scans before the study began and were again scanned after 4 weeks and at the end of the 12 week study. The research team did a final analysis that included data from 59 patients and discovered that the patients who took the 80 mg statin showed significant reduction in gum inflammation after only 4 weeks. The reduction in gum inflammation also paralleled a reduction in inflammation caused by atherosclerosis.
The authors of this study conclude that their findings provide evidence of a link between gum disease and heart disease and treatments that reduce inflammation in one condition may also reduce inflammation in the other condition. The researchers also claim that good oral hygiene that reduces gum inflammation may also curb artery inflammation. Dr. Tawakol advises patients with heart disease or who have experienced a stroke to tell their doctors about any gum disease they may have so it can be properly treated.
The researchers of this study hope that their findings lead to larger studies that investigate the connection of gum inflammation and inflammation in the arteries. According to Dr. Michael Blaha of the John Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease, “A more modern perspective paints statins as cardiovascular risk-reducing medications with multiple possible mechanisms of action” and this new study “has tremendous potential implications for our philosophy toward statin allocation in primary prevention and future testing of new anti-atherosclerotic drugs.”