Could Gut Bacteria Impact Artery Blockage?

Could Gut Bacteria Impact Artery Blockage?

Gut Bacteria and Heart Health: The Surprising Connection

When it comes to heart health, we usually think about factors such as diet, exercise, and genetics. But what if I told you that your gut bacteria could also play a role in determining your risk for heart disease? A recent study conducted by researchers from Uppsala and Lund Universities in Sweden has found a fascinating link between the levels of certain microbes in the gut and the development of fatty deposits in the heart arteries, known as atherosclerotic plaques.

The study, which involved nearly 9,000 Swedish patients aged 50 to 65 with no known heart disease, analyzed both the gut bacteria and cardiac images of the participants. The researchers discovered that specific oral bacteria, particularly those belonging to the Streptococcus genus, were associated with an increased occurrence of atherosclerotic plaques in the small arteries of the heart when present in the gut flora.

You’re probably familiar with Streptococcus bacteria as a common cause of respiratory infections and strep throat. However, this study suggests that these bacteria may also contribute to the development of atherosclerosis, the underlying condition that leads to heart attacks. Professor Tove Fall, a molecular epidemiology expert at Uppsala University and one of the study’s researchers, explains, “We found that oral bacteria, especially species from the Streptococcus genus, are associated with increased occurrence of atherosclerotic plaques in the small arteries of the heart when present in the gut flora.”

To unravel this intriguing connection, the researchers utilized advanced technology to sequence and compare the DNA content of the biological samples. By doing so, they were able to uncover associations that were previously unknown. Additionally, improved imaging techniques allowed them to detect and measure early changes in the small vessels of the heart, providing further evidence of the link between gut bacteria and heart health.

Among the bacteria species identified, Streptococcus anginosus and S. oralis subsp. oralis were found to be the strongest contributors to inflammation markers in the blood. Notably, some of the species associated with fatty deposits in the arteries were also found to be present in the mouth, suggesting a potential route of transmission or a shared relationship. This finding raises an intriguing question: could maintaining good oral hygiene be key to reducing the risk of heart disease?

“We have just started to understand how the human host and the bacterial community in the different compartments of the body affect each other,” says Professor Marju Orho-Melander, a genetic epidemiology expert at Lund University and the senior author of the study. “Our study shows worse cardiovascular health in carriers of streptococci in their gut. We now need to investigate if these bacteria are important players in atherosclerosis development.”

The implications of this study are substantial. It highlights the importance of not only taking care of our hearts but also maintaining a healthy gut microbiome. While the research is still in its early stages, it opens up new avenues for exploring unconventional risk factors for heart disease and potentially developing innovative preventative strategies.

Heart disease remains one of the leading causes of death worldwide, and understanding all the factors that contribute to its development is crucial. This study sheds light on the significance of the gut-heart axis, emphasizing the interplay between our gut bacteria and cardiovascular health. As our knowledge in this field expands, it is becoming increasingly evident that a multidimensional approach to heart disease prevention is necessary.

In conclusion, this Swedish study unraveled an unexpected link between gut bacteria and heart health. Streptococcus bacteria, typically associated with respiratory and throat infections, were found to be associated with the development of atherosclerotic plaques. While further research is needed to fully understand the mechanisms at play, this study emphasizes the need for a comprehensive approach to heart disease prevention. So, in addition to eating well, exercising regularly, and maintaining proper oral hygiene, we should also pay attention to nurturing a healthy gut microbiome. By doing so, we may be able to reduce our risk of heart disease and enjoy a healthier heart for years to come.


#####Sources: – Study: Circulation – More information: U.S. National Institutes of Health