Many of you might have surely heard about blood tests like Troponin I (TnI) that can detect a recent heart attack, but not about saliva based tests that can predict heart attack even before it happens. This is because TnI is one of the most widely used tests in the emergency setting, and anyone who has taken a near one to a hospital for a suspected heart attack would have come across the TnI test.
Yet, saliva based tests that can detect the risk for heart disease even before it develops have been around for some time now. But more about it later in this article. For now, the big news is that researchers at the Mount Royal University in Canada have devised a surprisingly simple saliva based test to detect heart disease in a person. They found that the measure of white blood cells in an oral rinse is directly correlated to an important marker of heart disease called flow mediated dilation of the arteries.
This study result, published recently in the journal ‘Frontiers in Oral Health’, is not without reason. Multiple earlier studies had detected the connection between oral diseases like gingivitis (gum inflammation) and periodontitis (severe inflammation of gum, soft tissue & bone) and cardiovascular diseases. The genius of the current study is that they devised a simple way – by counting the white blood cells in the saliva – to test for even minor gum inflammation, even when gum disease is not symptomatically obvious, and found that it correlated with this crucial heart disease marker.
In other words, gum inflammation, even in its mildest forms can start affecting the health of your arteries, even before it manifests with bleeding gums and pain while brushing. The researchers postulate that this happens as inflammatory factors leak into the bloodstream from the gums and start damaging the vascular system. While issues with flow mediated dilation of the arteries is not an irreversible condition, it is a definitive sign that cardiovascular disease is starting to develop in a person.
Now, to the other saliva based test that can detect heart disease risk, even years or decades before it starts to develop in a person. This test, called EPLIMO, has been around for a few years now, and tests for genetic risk factors behind heart disease. EPLIMO also combines this genetic data with a detailed metabolic assessment, and analyses it using AI based tools to improve the accuracy of predicting heart disease risk. EPLIMO then generates lifestyle modification suggestions, spanning diet, nutrition, supplements, exercise, sleep, yoga, meditation, breathwork etc to keep such detected disease risks at bay.
The distinct advantage here is that EPLIMO predicts heart disease risk even before it develops, whereas the saliva based white blood cell test can detect heart disease risk only after it starts developing in a person. Secondly, EPLIMO is readily available now, even in India, whereas the saliva based white blood cell test may not become a mainstream medical practice anytime soon.
However, the biggest advantage with EPLIMO is something else – it can not only detect risks for developing heart disease, but risks for developing any among 250+ common and rare lifestyle diseases including diabetes, hypertension, stroke, dementia / Alzheimer’s, Parkinson’s, COPD, cancer etc., in one simple saliva based test. Incidentally, gingivitis and periodontitis too are diseases with strong genetic linkages, and this underscores the superiority of a genetic solution compared with alternatives.