x-rays may reveal stroke risk in women
YORK, Aug 29 (Reuters Health) - People usually visit the dentist
with the idea of improving their dental health. But for women older
than 55, a trip to the dentist may also yield evidence about stroke
risk, according to a new report.
dental x-rays can reveal calcifications in the carotid arteries,
which increase a person's risk of stroke, the researchers explain.
the study, Drs. Arthur H. Friedlander and Lisa Altman of Veterans
Affairs Greater Los Angeles Healthcare Systems evaluated standard
panoramic dental x-rays of 52 postmenopausal women aged 55 to 90
with no prior history of heart attack or stroke. Sixteen (31%) of
the women showed evidence of calcification in their carotid arteries.
older than 55 who receive panoramic dental x-rays should ask doctors
to examine the x-rays for calcification in the carotid arteries
that would be consistent with blockage of blood flow to the brain,
Friedlander recommended in an interview with Reuters Health.
the findings offer another avenue of detection for women at risk
of stroke, the researchers point out that the medical records of
the women with the blockages were "heavily laden" with
many other red flags for heart disease and stroke. For instance,
94% of the women were diagnosed with high blood pressure, 50% were
characterized as overweight or obese, 38% were heavy smokers, and
nearly 70% of the women had high levels of blood fats including
Friedlander published similar findings in 1981 and again in 1994
from studies of men's dental x-rays, this study, published in the
August issue of the Journal of the American Dental Association,
is the first to examine dental x-rays of women for blockages, he
than 60% of the deaths in the United States attributed to stroke
occur in postmenopausal women, the report indicates.
a woman's estrogen levels decrease after menopause, her blood levels
of cholesterol increase, which makes her more vulnerable for build-up
of arterial plaque, Friedlander explained.
plaque deposits, which collect in the inner lining of the artery,
contain fatty substances such as cholesterol, cellular waste products,
calcium and other substances. Plaques may grow large enough to reduce
blood flow through an artery. They can also become fragile and rupture.
Plaques that rupture form blood clots that can block blood flow
or break off and travel to another part of the body. If a clot blocks
a blood vessel that feeds the brain, a stroke can result.
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