A new study links gum disease with increased risk for stroke, with the likelihood of suffering a blockage of blood flow to the brain rising steadily as gum condition worsens.

Researchers looked at the dental and health records of more than 6,700 older adults, none of whom had experienced a stroke. They followed the participants for 15 years, during which time 300 individuals suffered a stroke, according to a paper presented Feb. 23, 2017 at the American Stroke Association International Stroke Conference in Houston.

Results revealed that the higher a participant’s level of gum disease was, the worse his or her risk of stroke. Participants with mild gum disease were 1.9 times more likely to have a stroke than those without gum disease. Moderate gum disease was linked with a 2.1 times greater risk, and severe gum disease was linked with a 2.2 times greater risk.

The findings demonstrate the importance of taking care of oral health.

This article originally appeared in Mind, Mood & Memory, a publication of the Department of Psychiatry at Massachusetts General Hospital dedicated to maintaining mental fitness from middle age and beyond.

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