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Cholesterol Drugs May Boost Your Gums' Health, Too

Study finds statins reduce gum inflammation
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WebMD News from HealthDay

By Serena Gordon

HealthDay Reporter

WEDNESDAY, Oct. 2 (HealthDay News) -- The statin medications you take for your heart may have an unexpected side benefit: They help reduce inflammation of the gums, according to new research.

Using advanced imaging techniques, researchers were able to see that when people with gum disease took higher doses of the commonly prescribed cholesterol-lowering drugs, their gum inflammation decreased.

During the 12-week study, the researchers also looked for evidence of inflammation or hardening of the blood vessels (atherosclerotic disease) in the study volunteers, and they found that reduced gum inflammation was correlated with improved blood vessel health.

"There is a building, growing body of literature that draws a line between gum disease and atherosclerotic disease. In our study, benefits in the gums correlated with benefits in the arteries," said the study's senior author, Dr. Ahmed Tawakol, co-director of the Cardiac Imaging Trials Program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School in Boston. "People with [gum disease] and atherosclerotic disease should likely be that much more vigilant in treating their gum disease."

The study was published online Oct. 2 in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology. Funding was provided by drug manufacturer Merck and Co., which does not produce the statin used in this study.

Currently, statins are prescribed to lower high levels of "bad" cholesterol, also known as LDL cholesterol. When there's too much LDL cholesterol, it can start to build up on blood vessel walls, leading to hardening of the arteries.

In the United States, more than 30 million people take statins, and as many as 200 million people worldwide take these cholesterol-lowering medications, according to a journal editorial accompanying the study. Periodontal disease (or gum disease) affects nearly half of U.S. adults.

According to editorial author Dr. Michael Blaha, director of clinical research at the Johns Hopkins Ciccarone Center for the Prevention of Heart Disease in Baltimore, a "consistent stream of data" shows that statins have benefits beyond their cholesterol-lowering properties.

"There are three big categories of how statins likely exert their effects: lowering LDL, reducing inflammation, and by modulating plaque," said Blaha.

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Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High, but fortunately your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have other non-measured increases in LDL-like particles that can increase heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is Borderline High. But your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol is High, but your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is near optimal. This could mean you have a high level of high-density lipoprotein, or "good" HDL cholesterol, which protects against heart disease. Or you could have elevated secondary lipids, such as non-HDL particles that increase the risk of heart disease. Your LDL level also could be optimal if you are taking a statin medication. Please check with your doctor to get your complete lipid profile and see if you may need additional treatment. In the meantime, find more information on WebMD's Cholesterol Health Center.

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Borderline High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels!

Your total cholesterol level is High. Your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is High, too. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe medication, such as statins. Following medication, dietary, and exercise instructions should result in improvements.

Your total cholesterol level is High, and your level of "bad" LDL cholesterol is Very High. Working to bring down your total cholesterol decreases your LDL cholesterol level. You can do this by exercising more and eating less food with saturated fats. Check food labels! If you are struggling to bring down your total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol levels, your doctor may prescribe statins or other cholesterol-lowering medications.

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