Study: High-dose statins reduce gum inflammation in heart disease patients

Statins, commonly prescribed medications for lowering cholesterol, also reduced inflammation associated with periodontal disease in a new study in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology (October 2, 2013).

The study findings suggest that steps taken to reduce periodontal disease may also reduce inflammation in the arteries and vice versa.

Periodontal disease affects about half of the U.S. adult population, said study co-author Ahmed Tawakol, MD, co-director of the cardiac imaging trials program at Massachusetts General Hospital and Harvard Medical School. Since periodontitis and atherosclerosis are both primarily driven by inflammation, the inflammatory conditions tend to coexist within individuals, and their biologies may be intertwined, he noted.

In the double-blind, randomized study, patients with heart disease or a high heart disease risk were assigned to take either an 80-mg statin or a 10-mg statin daily for 12 weeks. PET/CT scans were performed after four and 12 weeks, and compared with scans taken before treatment began. The 59 patients included in the final analysis showed a significant reduction in periodontal inflammation after as few as four weeks of treatment with the high-dose statin. Notably, the improvement in inflammation tracked closely with improvement in atherosclerotic disease.

The research provides further evidence of a link between periodontal disease and atherosclerosis, and demonstrates that treatments aimed at reducing inflammation in one of these conditions may produce improvements for the other. Improved oral hygiene to reduce inflammation of the gums may lead to reduced inflammation of the arteries, the researchers said.

Statins have beneficial effects beyond their lipid-lowering properties, Dr. Tawakol said, and recommended that physicians should take it into consideration when discussing antihyperlipidemic treatment options with their patients.

Patients with heart disease and stroke should inform their physicians about any significant periodontal disease and should be particularly careful to follow existing guidelines for the disease, he added.

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