Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure

May 07, 2019

DALLAS, May 7, 2019 - Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, a structural change that increases the risk for future heart problems, according to new research in Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, an American Heart Association journal.

"People drinking water from private wells, which are not regulated, need to be aware that arsenic may increase the risk for cardiovascular disease. Testing those wells is a critical first step to take action and prevent exposure," said Gernot Pichler, M.D., Ph.D., M.Sc., lead author of the study and medical specialist for Internal Medicine, Department of Cardiology at Hospital Hietzing/Heart Center Clinic Floridsdorf in Vienna, Austria, scientific collaborator at INCLIVA Health Research Institute in Valencia, Spain, and a visitor scholar in the Department of Environmental Health Sciences at Columbia University in New York City.

People are most frequently exposed to arsenic, a toxic metalloid, through drinking water in areas where groundwater is contaminated, including many American Indian tribal communities and other rural and suburban communities in the United States. Previously, several studies have shown that arsenic exposure raises the risk of heart disease and its risk factors, including high blood pressure and diabetes. This is the first study to review the question in young American Indians in Oklahoma, Arizona and North and South Dakota.

Here, researchers reviewed data from the Strong Heart Family Study, a study evaluating cardiovascular risk factors among American Indians. Arsenic exposure was measured in urine samples from 1,337 adults (average age 30.7 years, 61% female) and the size, shape and function of their hearts were assessed using ultrasound (echocardiography). None of the participants had diabetes or heart disease at the start of the five-year study.

Overall, arsenic exposure was higher than in the general United States population, but lower than that found in other studies conducted in Mexico and Bangladesh. With a two-fold increase in arsenic in the urine, the researchers found:

47% greater chance of thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber (left ventricle) in the group as a whole; and

58% greater chance of thickening of the left ventricle in participants with increased or high blood pressure (blood pressure at least 120/80 mm Hg or using pressure-lowering medication)

"The stronger association in subjects with elevated blood pressure suggests that individuals with pre-clinical heart disease might be more prone to the toxic effects of arsenic on the heart," Pichler said.

The study is limited by having only one measure of arsenic exposure, and by the lack of long-term follow-up of the participants. Although this study was performed in tribal populations in the north, central and southwestern United States, the results are likely to be generalizable to millions of people in other rural locations exposed to low or moderate levels of arsenic in their water, according to Pichler.

"The study raises the question of whether the changes in heart structure are reversible if exposure is reduced. Some changes have occurred in water sources in the study communities, and it will be important to check the potential health impact of reducing arsenic exposure," Pichler said.

"Observational studies can stimulate future research on genetic, environmental and clinical factors to shed light on the relationship between arsenic and cardiovascular disease," said editorial author, Rajiv Chowdhury, M.B.B.S., Ph.D., Cardiovascular Epidemiology Unit, Department of Public Health and Primary Care, University of Cambridge, United Kingdom "These studies are important since cardiovascular disease remains the single leading cause of adult premature death worldwide and millions of individuals globally are exposed to arsenic and other metal contaminants."
-end-
Co-authors are Maria Grau-Perez, M.Sc.; Maria Tellez-Plaza, M.D., Ph.D.; Jason G. Umans, M.D., Ph.D.; Lyle G. Best, M.D.; Shelley Cole, Ph.D.; Walter Goessler, Ph.D.; Kevin A. Francesconi, Ph.D.; Jonathan Newman, M.D., M.P.H.; Josep Redon, M.D., Ph.D.; Richard B. Devereux, M.D. and Ana Navas-Acien, M.D., Ph.D. Author disclosures are on the manuscript.

Editorial co-author is Kim van Daalen, B.Sc., M.Phil.

The National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences and the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute funded the study.

Additional Resources:

Available multimedia is on right column of release link - https://newsroom.heart.org/news/arsenic-in-drinking-water-may-change-heart-structure?preview=c70597d10a391db4538b5a23ad0f2df6

Statements and conclusions of study authors published in American Heart Association scientific journals are solely those of the study authors and do not necessarily reflect the association's policy or position. The association makes no representation or guarantee as to their accuracy or reliability. The association receives funding primarily from individuals; foundations and corporations (including pharmaceutical, device manufacturers and other companies) also make donations and fund specific association programs and events. The association has strict policies to prevent these relationships from influencing the science content. Revenues from pharmaceutical and device corporations and health insurance providers are available at https://www.heart.org/en/about-us/aha-financial-information.

About the American Heart Association

The American Heart Association is a leading force for a world of longer, healthier lives. With nearly a century of lifesaving work, the Dallas-based association is dedicated to ensuring equitable health for all. We are a trustworthy source empowering people to improve their heart health, brain health and well-being. We collaborate with numerous organizations and millions of volunteers to fund innovative research, advocate for stronger public health policies, and share lifesaving resources and information. Connect with us on heart.org, Facebook, Twitter or by calling 1-800-AHA-USA1.

American Heart Association

Related Heart Disease Articles from Brightsurf:

Cellular pathway of genetic heart disease similar to neurodegenerative disease
Research on a genetic heart disease has uncovered a new and unexpected mechanism for heart failure.

Mechanism linking gum disease to heart disease, other inflammatory conditions discovered
The link between periodontal (gum) disease and other inflammatory conditions such as heart disease and diabetes has long been established, but the mechanism behind that association has, until now, remained a mystery.

New 'atlas' of human heart cells first step toward precision treatments for heart disease
Scientists have for the first time documented all of the different cell types and genes expressed in the healthy human heart, in research published in the journal Nature.

With a heavy heart: How men and women develop heart disease differently
A new study by researchers from McGill University has uncovered that minerals causing aortic heart valve blockage in men and women are different, a discovery that could change how heart disease is diagnosed and treated.

Heart-healthy diets are naturally low in dietary cholesterol and can help to reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke
Eating a heart-healthy dietary pattern rich in vegetables, fruits, whole grains, low-fat dairy products, poultry, fish, legumes, vegetable oils and nuts, which is also limits salt, red and processed meats, refined-carbohydrates and added sugars, is relatively low in dietary cholesterol and supports healthy levels of artery-clogging LDL cholesterol.

Pacemakers can improve heart function in patients with chemotherapy-induced heart disease
Research has shown that treating chemotherapy-induced cardiomyopathy with commercially available cardiac resynchronization therapy (CRT) delivered through a surgically implanted defibrillator or pacemaker can significantly improve patient outcomes.

Arsenic in drinking water may change heart structure raising risk of heart disease
Drinking water that is contaminated with arsenic may lead to thickening of the heart's main pumping chamber in young adults, according to a new study by researchers at Columbia University Mailman School of Public Health.

New health calculator can help predict heart disease risk, estimate heart age
A new online health calculator can help people determine their risk of heart disease, as well as their heart age, accounting for sociodemographic factors such as ethnicity, sense of belonging and education, as well as health status and lifestyle behaviors.

Wide variation in rate of death between VA hospitals for patients with heart disease, heart failure
Death rates for veterans with ischemic heart disease and chronic heart failure varied widely across the Veterans Affairs (VA) health care system from 2010 to 2014, which could suggest differences in the quality of cardiovascular health care provided by VA medical centers.

Heart failure: The Alzheimer's disease of the heart?
Similar to how protein clumps build up in the brain in people with some neurodegenerative diseases such as Alzheimer's and Parkinson's diseases, protein clumps appear to accumulate in the diseased hearts of mice and people with heart failure, according to a team led by Johns Hopkins University researchers.

Read More: Heart Disease News and Heart Disease Current Events
Brightsurf.com is a participant in the Amazon Services LLC Associates Program, an affiliate advertising program designed to provide a means for sites to earn advertising fees by advertising and linking to Amazon.com.