A new study from Hietzing Hospital in Austria, found that a two-fold increase in arsenic levels in urine was associated with a nearly 50% increased risk in the heart’s main pumping chamber thickening., Drinking water contaminated with arsenic could change the structure of the heart, a new study says.Past studies have found that the public water supply in California and bottled water from Whole Foods and Dr Pepper contain the toxic element.Now researchers say that private water wells, particularly on Native American reservations, main contain it as well.  The study found that arsenic-laced water increased the risk of the heart’s main pumping chamber being thickened by nearly 50 percent.This put sufferers at risk of several cardiovascular disease risk factors such as hypertension, high blood pressure heart attack and strokes. The team, led by Hietzing Hospital in Vienna, Austria, is calling on the regulation of private water wells to prevent arsenic exposure in the first place.A new study from Hietzing Hospital in Austria found that a two-fold increase in arsenic levels in urine was associated with a nearly 50% increased risk in the heart’s main pumping chamber thickening (file image)Arsenic is a naturally occurring element in the Earth’s crust and can be found in air, food, soil and water. In its inorganic form and in high levels, arsenic can be highly toxic, and even deadly. A 2017 study estimated that roughly 2.1 million people in the US drink water from private wells that have high concentrations of arsenic. According to the World Health Organization, people who drink contaminated water can suffer from acute arsenic poisoning, which causes vomiting, stomach pain and diarrhea. Long-term exposure, however, has been linked to cancers of the bladder, lungs and skin as well as developmental effects, diabetes and cardiovascular disease. ‘Before this study, several high-quality prospective cohort studies had shown that arsenic exposure was associated with increased risk of clinical cardiovascular outcomes,’ lead author Dr Gernot Pichler of the Department of Cardiology at Hospital Hietzing, told DailyMail.com.’We conducted this study because despite the evidence on arsenic and clinical disease, the underlying mechanisms are unknown.’For the new study, published in the journal Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging, the team looked at data from the Strong Heart Family Study.The SHS, run by the University of Oklahoma is a study of cardiovascular disease and its risk factors among American Indians.Researchers measured arsenic exposure in urine samples from more than 1,300 adults and performed electrocardiograms of the size, shape and function of their hearts.None of the participants had diabetes or heart disease at the start of the five-year study period.The team found that a two-fold increase in arsenic levels in urine increased the risk of the heart’s main pumping chamber, the left ventricle, thickening by 47 percent.In participants with high blood pressure, the increase in arsenic levels raised the risk of thickening by nearly 60 percent. When the left ventricle thickens, it caused the pumping chamber to work harder, meaning it may not be able to pump blood effectively, increasing the risk of a heart attack and stroke.’It was surprising to see that arsenic is directly related to cardiotoxicity,’ Dr Pichler said. ‘Arsenic seems to be toxic for the cardiovascular system via more pathways than expected.’  For future research, Dr Pichler said he wants to investigate whether the changes are reversible if exposure to arsenic-laced water is reduced. He also is calling on private wells to be tested so that exposure can be prevented in the first place. ‘Potential sources of exposure need to be considered, in particular for people drinking water from private wells,’ said Dr Pichler.’Private wells are currently not regulated and people using private wells, including children and young adults, are not protected. Testing of those wells is a critical first step in other to take action and prevent arsenic exposure.’ In a linked editorial, Dr Rajiv Chowdhury and Dr Kim Daalen of the University of Cambridge in the UK say the study has limitations, such as measuring arsenic exposure via urine tests.This only detects recent exposure while other tests, such as testing the toenails, can measure long-term exposure.However, ‘the 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,’ they wrote. 

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