Let’s talk about cholesterolUncategorised
Posted by: The Probe 3rd October 2020
October marks National Cholesterol Month, which aims to raise awareness of the general health implications of high cholesterol. It is one of the main risk factors for serious diseases of the heart and blood vessels that are common causes of ill health and death in the UK. As high cholesterol itself does not usually present with any symptoms, many people are unaware that they have it. Indeed, it is estimated that up to six out of ten people in England have high cholesterol.[i] This is an alarming trend given that high cholesterol and associated complications can detrimentally impact oral health.
What is cholesterol?
Cholesterol is a type of blood fat (lipid) that forms part of every cell membrane in the human body, and is especially important for the brain, nerves and skin. Additionally, cholesterol is used to produce vitamin D and steroid hormones that maintain the health of your bones, teeth and muscles. Cholesterol comes from some of the food we eat, but most of it is produced in the liver. After a meal, the fat from the food eaten is broken down into triglycerides – another type of blood fat – which are absorbed into the blood from the intestines and transported around the body.
Cholesterol and triglycerides are unable to circulate loosely in the blood, so the liver packages them into “parcels” known as lipoproteins. Once in the blood stream, some cholesterol will be returned to the liver and broken down to produce bile acids. These are then released into the intestines to help with digestion and the breaking down of fats in food. A small amount of bile acids is removed from the body as waste, but most of it is absorbed back into the blood, returned to the liver, and used again to aid digestion.[ii] We all need cholesterol to survive, but having too much of it is when complications can occur.
The problem with high cholesterol
Excess cholesterol can lead to the formation of fatty deposits – otherwise known as plaques – on the walls of blood vessels, including arteries. The plaque can then build up and harden over time, making the arteries stiffer and narrower, eventually preventing sufficient blood flow. This is a potentially serious condition called atherosclerosis, which can ultimately put strain on the heart as it has to work harder to pump blood around the body. Blood clots that block the artery completely are also more likely with atherosclerosis.
Arteries clogged up by blood fats like cholesterol can lead to the development of cardiovascular disease (CVD), increasing the risk of a heart attack, angina, stroke or vascular dementia.[iii] Moreover, research has demonstrated a link between high cholesterol, CVD and periodontitis.[iv] According to one study, people with periodontal disease are almost twice as likely to suffer from CVD, with this risk increasing among those with high cholesterol.[v] Although not yet fully understood, it is thought that the relationship between CVD and periodontal disease is associated with the inflammatory nature of these conditions.[vi]
Even those who lead a healthy lifestyle can develop high cholesterol due to genetics, meaning they inherit it from their parents. In addition, people are at greater risk of high cholesterol if they are male, from a South Asian background, or have a family history of the condition. The likelihood of having high cholesterol also increases with age. Other risk factors for high cholesterol include; smoking, being overweight, consuming too much saturated fat, drinking more alcohol than is recommended, not being physically active, having an underactive thyroid gland, and other health problems such as type 2 diabetes, liver disease, and kidney disease. Furthermore, some common medications – like diuretics, corticosteroids and anti-depressants – are known to raise cholesterol and triglyceride levels.iii, [vii]
There are simple changes people can make to their lifestyle in order to lower their cholesterol. These changes include eating a healthy diet (one low in salt and saturated fat, and high in fruit, vegetables and fibre), staying active, reducing alcohol consumption, smoking cessation, and looking after any other existing health conditions. Lifestyle changes alone won’t be enough for some people to lower their cholesterol, but medications like statins can help in this regard. Statins can reduce an individual’s level of “bad” cholesterol by approximately 30%, sometimes even 50% with higher doses.[viii]
Dental professionals can play a significant role in encouraging healthy lifestyle behaviours among patients with high cholesterol. This could be in the form of promoting good oral hygiene habits in order to reduce the burden of oral diseases on patients’ cholesterol levels and overall health. Why not recommend products that can support patients in maintaining an effective oral care regime? Leading oral healthcare specialist, Curaprox, offers a range of innovative solutions that can optimise routines, including the Hydrosonic Pro electric toothbrush. This features ultra-soft CUREN® bristles and CURACURVE® ergonomics to facilitate a gentle but thorough clean – even in the most hard-to-reach areas of the mouth.
There’s no doubt that cholesterol can have significant knock-on effects on general health, as well as oral health. This National Cholesterol Month, take the opportunity to educate patients and engage with them about the steps they can take to follow a healthier lifestyle for the benefit of maintaining low cholesterol levels.
Author: Dawn Woodward National Sales manager Curaprox UK
[i] Waterwall, J. (2015) High cholesterol: beating the build-up during Cholesterol Month. Public Health England. Available at: https://publichealthmatters.blog.gov.uk/2015/10/12/high-cholesterol-beating-the-build-up-during-cholesterol-month/#:~:text=Six%20out%20of%20ten%20adults,risk%20of%20serious%20health%20conditions. [Last accessed: 14.07.20].
[ii] HEART UK. (Unknown) What is cholesterol? Available at: https://www.heartuk.org.uk/cholesterol/what-is-cholesterol. [Last accessed: 14.07.20].
[iii] HEART UK. (Unknown) What is high cholesterol? Available at: https://www.heartuk.org.uk/cholesterol/what-is-high-cholesterol. [Last accessed: 14.07.20].
[iv] Katz, K., Chaushu, G. and Sharabi, Y. (2001) On the association between hypercholesterolemia, cardiovascular disease and severe periodontal disease. Journal of Clinical Periodontology. 28(9): 865–868. DOI: 10.1034/j.1600-051x.2001.028009865.x.
[vi] Humphrey, L. L., Fu, R., Buckley, D. I., Freeman, M. and Helfand, M. (2008) Periodontal Disease and Coronary Heart Disease Incidence: A Systematic Review and Meta-analysis. Journal of General Internal Medicine. 23(12): 2079–2086. DOI: 10.1007/s11606-008-0787-6.
[vii] HEART UK. (Unknown) Other causes of high cholesterol. Available at: https://www.heartuk.org.uk/genetic-conditions/secondary-hyperlipidaemia. [Last accessed: 14.07.20].
[viii] HEART UK. (Unknown) Statins. Available at: https://www.heartuk.org.uk/getting-treatment/statins. [Last accessed: 14.07.20].
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