Almost half of adults in the United States have delayed going to the dentist because of the pandemic — 75% of those folks postponed a regular checkup and more than 12% skipped care for something bothering them, like bleeding gums.
That's obviously bad for oral health. But it has even more far-reaching repercussions, according to a study in the journal Hypertension.
If you have severe periodontal gum disease, you're twice as likely as people with healthy gums to have a systolic blood pressure (the top number) of 140 mmHg or more — which is high. You're also likely to have other heart-damaging conditions such as elevated glucose and bad LDL cholesterol, as well as chronic inflammation.
Of course, controlling blood pressure depends on more than keeping your gums healthy. You also need regular exercise. The European Journal of Preventive Cardiology recently issued new guidelines that identify the specific forms exercise that are most effective for controlling or preventing high blood pressure:
• For people with blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher, aerobic exercises such as walking, running, cycling, or swimming are the most effectives way to reduce those numbers.
• For reduction of high-normal blood pressure (130-139/85-89 mmHg), dynamic resistance training such as weight-lifting, squats, and push-ups are optimal.
• People with normal blood pressure (less than 130/84 mmHg) can best prevent high blood pressure by doing isometric resistance training such as handgrip exercises, wall sits, and planks.
The blood-pressure-lowering effects of exercise last about 24 hours, say the researchers, so it's best to do it daily.
And remember: Any physical activity is better than none.