Will taking care of my teeth help prevent heart disease?
Taking care of your teeth isn't a proven way to prevent heart disease. While there appears to be some connection between oral health and heart disease, more research is needed to understand it.
Poor oral health has been debated as a possible cause of heart disease for many years. In 2012, experts from the American Heart Association reviewed the available scientific evidence and concluded that poor oral health hasn't been proved to cause heart disease — and that treating existing gum disease hasn't been proved to reduce the risk of heart disease. Still, studies have shown:
Gum disease (periodontitis) is associated with an increased risk of developing heart disease.
Poor dental health increases the risk of a bacterial infection in the blood stream, which can affect the heart valves. Oral health may be particularly important if you have artificial heart valves.
Tooth loss patterns are connected to coronary artery disease.
There is a strong connection between diabetes and cardiovascular disease and evidence that people with diabetes benefit from periodontal treatment.
Even though oral health isn't a key to heart disease prevention, it's important to take care of your teeth and gums:
Brush your teeth at least twice a day.
Schedule regular dental checkups and cleanings.
If you're concerned about heart disease prevention, ask your doctor about proven ways to reduce your risk — such as stopping smoking and maintaining a healthy weight.
Yellow lentils with spinach and ginger
Lentils are a staple in the cooking of southern India. If you can't find yellow lentils, you can substitute yellow split peas.
1 tablespoon olive oil
1 shallot, minced (about 2 tablespoons)
1 teaspoon ground ginger
1/2 teaspoon curry powder
1/2 teaspoon ground turmeric
1 cup yellow lentils, picked over, rinsed and drained
1 1/2 cups no-salt-added vegetable stock, chicken stock or broth
1/2 cup light coconut milk
2 cups baby spinach leaves, stemmed and chopped, or 1 cup frozen chopped spinach, thawed
1/2 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon white or black sesame seeds
1 tablespoon chopped fresh cilantro (fresh coriander)
In a large saucepan, heat the olive oil over medium heat. Add the shallot, ginger, curry powder and turmeric and cook, stirring until the spices are fragrant, about 1 minute.
Add the lentils, stock and coconut milk. Raise the heat to medium-high and bring to a boil. Reduce the heat to low, cover partially, and simmer until the lentils are tender but still firm, about 12 minutes. The mixture should be brothy; add a little water if needed.
While the lentils simmer, toast the sesame seeds. Place the sesame seeds in a small, dry saute pan over medium heat. Cook briefly, shaking the pan often and watching carefully to prevent burning. Remove the seeds from the pan as soon as they begin to turn brown. Set aside.
Stir the spinach into the lentils, cover and simmer for about 3 minutes longer. The lentils should still hold their shape.
Uncover and stir in the salt. Garnish with the cilantro and toasted sesame seeds.