Dental Health, Chronic Infections Double Brain Attack Risk

August 26, 1997

DALLAS, Sept. 9 -- Dental infections and other chronic infections such as bronchitis more than double the risk of having a stroke or "brain attack," according to a study by German researchers reported in today's American Heart Association journal Stroke.

This study is the first time researchers have looked at the association between chronic bronchitis, dental infection and stroke.

Armin Grau, M.D., of the department of neurology at the University of Heidelberg and lead author of the study, says the findings confirm previous reports that infections -- chronic or acute -- have an intriguing link to stroke and atherosclerosis, a condition in which the thickened artery walls prevent blood flow from reaching the heart or brain, causing a heart or brain attack (stroke).

"There is increasing evidence that chronic bronchitis and infection with bacteria such as Chylamydia pneumonia, Heliobactor pylori and cytomegalovirus may be associated with cardiovascular disease and atherogenesis," notes the researcher. And, dental infection, mainly periodontitis, has also been linked to heart attacks.

If more research turns up a direct cause and effect relationship, it may open up new opportunities to prevent strokes. "Chronic infection may be a treatable condition, and for preventive purposes, it appears important to elucidate its role as a potential stroke risk factor," say the scientists.

In the study, the presence of dental and other chronic infections in a group of 166 people who had not suffered a stroke were compared to 166 patients who had brain attacks and transient ischemic attacks (TIAs). TIAs are mini-strokes that usually last for less than 2 hours and cause no permanent neurological impairment. However, they may indicate a predisposition to future stroke.

Strokes and TIAs occurred twice as often among those who had frequent or chronic bronchitis and about two-and-one half times more often in those who had poor dental status, defined as having cavities, periodontitis, gingivitis, or infectious within the bone.

Media advisory: Dr. Grau can be reached at 49-6221-567513 or by fax at 49-6221-565348. (Please do not publish telephone numbers.)

American Heart Association

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