Heart attacks happen when your heart’s blood supply is blocked or interrupted by a build-up of fatty substances in the coronary arteries. A symptom of this process – known as heart disease – may be found on your tongue, according to research, published by the European Society of Cardiology. The study suggests that if your tongue is red with a yellow coating you could be at greater risk of heart disease.
The key finding is that microorganisms present on the tongue could help diagnose heart failure, the study researchers said.
Heart failure – where the heart is unable to pump blood around the body properly – is one of the main symptoms of heart disease, along with heart attacks.
The study was conducted by Dr Tianhui Yuan from the Hospital of Guangzhou University of Chinese Medicine.
She claimed that patients with chronic heart failure have “totally different” tongues to those who do not have the condition.
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Of those who enrolled in the study, 42 patients had chronic heart failure while 28 were healthy.
None of the patients who took part had oral or dental issues.
The researchers also pointed out that none of the participants had used antibiotics or immunosuppressants in the past week, neither were they pregnant or lactating.
To take samples from the tongue coatings each morning, stainless steel spoons were used.
These were taken before participants brushed their teeth or had eaten breakfast.
The researchers then identified bacteria from the samples provided.
They found that patients with heart failure shared the same microorganisms in their tongue coating, which subsequently made their tongues a darker shade.
Dr Yuan added: “More research is needed, but our results suggest that tongue microbes, which are easy to obtain, could assist with wide-scale screening, diagnosis, and long-term monitoring of heart failure.
“The underlying mechanisms connecting microorganisms in the tongue coating with heart function deserve further study.”
What are the main symptoms of a heart attack?
Symptoms of a heart attack can include:
- Chest pain – a sensation of pressure, tightness or squeezing in the centre of your chest
- Pain in other parts of the body – it can feel as if the pain is travelling from your chest to your arms (usually the left arm is affected, but it can affect both arms), jaw, neck, back and tummy (abdomen)
- Feeling lightheaded or dizzy
- Shortness of breath
- Feeling sick (nausea) or being sick (vomiting)
- An overwhelming sense of anxiety (similar to having a panic attack)
- Coughing or wheezing.
“Although the chest pain is often severe, some people may only experience minor pain, similar to indigestion,” explains the NHS.
It adds: “In some cases, there may not be any chest pain at all, especially in women, older people, and people who have diabetes.”