In a new study from Spain, researchers found exposure to low levels of toxic metals may raise the risk for developing clogged arteries.
They found a link between low levels of cadmium, arsenic and titanium in the urine of workers at an auto assembly plant in Zaragoza, Spain, and a buildup of plaque in the arteries of their necks, hearts and legs.
Previous research has shown a link between exposure to toxic metals found in drinking water, air, food and tobacco smoke and a higher risk for heart disease.
There also is evidence that a reduction in exposure to metals such as lead and cadmium contributed to a 32% decline in cardiovascular mortality rates in the U.S.
In the study, the team looked more closely at the association between the development of arterial plaque and environmental exposure to toxic metals.
Atherosclerosis – a buildup of plaque in the arteries – is the main underlying cause of cardiovascular disease.
They analyzed levels of nine toxic metals found in the urine of 1,873 Spanish auto workers who were 40-55 years old.
The metals included arsenic, barium, uranium, cadmium, chromium, antimony, titanium, vanadium and tungsten. They also looked at whether the auto workers had a plaque in their neck, heart and leg arteries.
They found the likelihood of having clogged arteries was higher in auto workers whose urine contained arsenic and cadmium – metals often found in food and tobacco – and titanium, which is found in dental and orthopedic implants, pacemakers, cosmetics and auto manufacturing plants.
This study supports that exposure to toxic metals in the environment, even at low levels of exposure, is toxic for heart health
The levels of metals in the study population were generally lower compared to other published studies.
Metals, and in particular arsenic, cadmium, titanium and likely antimony, are relevant risk factors for atherosclerosis, even at the lowest exposure levels and among middle-aged working individuals.
Clogged arteries can lead to heart attacks, stroke, angina, peripheral artery disease and kidney disease.
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The study is published in Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology. One author of the study is Maria Grau-Perez.
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