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Easy saliva test can detect early signs of heart disease, new study finds

The study suggests a correlation between oral health and the risk of cardiovascular diseases in a young population

Easy saliva test can detect early signs of heart disease, new study finds
[Source photo: Chetan Jha/Press Insider]

A study conducted recently suggests that a straightforward saliva test could serve as an effective means of detecting initial indicators of cardiovascular disease. The study reveals a connection between heightened levels of white blood cells in the saliva of healthy young adults and the initial indicators of cardiovascular health concerns.

The study employed a simple oral rinse technique to investigate whether the presence of white blood cells, associated with gum inflammation, in the saliva of healthy individuals could be correlated with cardiovascular disease indicators. The findings, recently published in the journal Frontiers in Oral Health, established a connection between high white blood cell counts and compromised flow-mediated dilation – an early indicator of arterial health decline.

The research emphasized that even among young and healthy adults, minimal oral inflammatory load might impact cardiovascular health, a significant contributor to mortality rates in North America. Trevor King, the corresponding author from Mount Royal University in Canada, stressed the importance of this discovery.

The study builds upon prior knowledge linking periodontitis – a common gum infection – to cardiovascular disease development. Scientists speculate that inflammatory agents originating in the gums could enter the bloodstream and harm the vascular system.

The investigation focused on individuals without diagnosed gum issues, aiming to determine the clinical relevance of lower levels of oral inflammation on cardiovascular health. Ker-Yung Hong, the study’s first author, noted that this holistic approach to health could lead to earlier interventions.

Participants in the study –  28 non-smokers aged 18 to 30 with no relevant medical conditions – underwent a simple oral rinse before undergoing tests for arterial health indicators. The ease of this approach prompted researchers to consider its integration into routine checkups, whether at family doctors or dental clinics.

The study found a significant relationship between elevated white blood cell levels in saliva and compromised flow-mediated dilation, indicating an increased risk of cardiovascular disease. However, no connection was identified between white blood cells and pulse-wave velocity, suggesting that longer-term arterial health impacts had not yet occurred.

“The relationship between cardiovascular and dental health has been the focus of numerous studies, and the results of this study may have major implications for preventive medicine and healthcare policies,” said Dr. Bimal Chhajer, Former Consultant at AIIMS, Cardiologist &  Director, SAAOL (Science and Art of living) Heart Centre, New Delhi. 

As per a study published by the National Institutes of Health (NIH), cardiovascular diseases strike Indians a decade earlier than western population. According to Dr. Chhajer, early detection of cardiovascular diseases is essential for the young Indian population. “It enables prompt management and intervention, which can greatly enhance outcomes and lessen the burden of the condition,” he said.

What does the future hold

Researchers hypothesize that oral inflammation affecting the vascular system might hinder the production of nitric oxide, a critical component for arteries to respond to changes in blood flow. While the levels of white blood cells in participants were not typically considered clinically significant, they could still impact vascular function.

King emphasized the preliminary nature of the study and expressed plans to expand the research population. The team aims to delve deeper by including individuals with gingivitis and more advanced periodontitis to better understand the correlation between different levels of gum inflammation and cardiovascular health measures.

Dr. Chhajer suggests that the findings of this study could result in the creation of more individualized preventative and treatment methods. “Further investigation into the genetic and environmental factors that contribute to early-onset cardiovascular diseases in Indians may be motivated by the findings (of this study),” he added.

“Although the link between cardiovascular disease and dental health is becoming more widely acknowledged, additional research is still required to establish the cause and quantify the impact,” said Dr. Chhajer.


Shireen Khan is a Senior Correspondent at Press Insider. She covers lifestyle, culture, and health. More

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