Heavy Metals and Heart Disease: Your Hidden Exposures


Heavy metals and heart disease

Copyright marcel/Dollar Photo Club

When I first saw this article, I was worried that my album collection from the 80’s had to go. But upon deeper reading I realized that the danger extends far beyond Tesla and Warrant.

While most of us are aware that heavy metals are not good for us, for the vast majority, our understanding of exposures is limited to playing with the old mercury-based thermometers and maybe not living next to a smelting plant.  Beyond that, however, the general public’s understanding of where heavy metal exposures come from is shallow.

If you’d like to stay in the dark, then stop reading right now.  If, however, the last time you had a good scare was watching Poltergeist and you’re ready for more, then I’d like to direct you to this particular study.  In it, researchers looked at four heavy metals (lead, cadmium, mercury and arsenic) to see how much they contributed to heart disease.  While the end results varied across the different studies that the researchers looked at, here is an overview of what they found:

  1. With lead, those with the highest levels were 252% more likely to die from any cause, 563% more likely to die of cardiovascular causes and a whopping 837% more likely to die from ischemic heart disease.
  2. With cadmium, every 2-fold increase is linked to a 28% higher risk of death from any cause, 21% higher risk of dying of heart disease.
  3. For mercury, there is a 69% higher risk of a heart attack, a 290% higher risk of having heart disease and a 230% higher risk of dying from any cause.  The authors also note that the effects may actually be even stronger, since much of our mercury exposure comes from fish, which has a protective effect, likely blunting some of the damaging effect of the mercury.
  4. Higher levels of arsenic are linked to a 71% higher risk of dying from coronary artery disease and a 303% higher risk of dying from a stroke.  These risks were generally higher for diabetics.

While the details of these association vary (based on the study looked at, what body tissues were used to check heavy metal levels, men versus women, etc…), it is very clear that heavy metals are NOT good for our vascular system and should be avoided as much as possible.

But this is the problem, isn’t it?  How can you avoid exposure if you really don’t know where those exposures are coming from?  The obvious ones like not smoking (cadmium), not camping outside of a smelting plant in a third-world country (lead and cadmium) and not using a straw to suck up the silvery stuff from the broken thermometer are easy.  It’s the hidden ones that will sneak up on you.

Luckily, this same study gives a great overview of common sources of exposure to these 4 heavy metals.  Here’s a summary from the article:

  • Lead: Food, water, air, gasoline additives, food-can soldering, lead-based paints, ceramic glazes, drinking water pipe systems, folk remedies.  In general, pretty much everywhere.  Another common source is from environmental dust.  Simply taking your shoes off at the door may lower your exposure.
  • Cadmium: Contaminated food (leafy vegetables, grains, organ meats, and crustaceans), drinking water, inhalation of polluted air, occupational exposure in industries, tobacco smoke.  For most non-smokers, exposure to cadmium is mostly from foods raised or grown on contaminated soil.  It is likely that organic products (meat as well as plants) will be lower in cadmium.
  • Mercury: Contaminated fish, meat and organ tissue of marine mammals or feral wildlife, dental amalgams, skin-lightening creams, antiseptic facial products, mercury-containing laxatives or diuretics, teething powders, latex paint.  These exposures are easier to identify but not necessarily avoid (i.e. you got amalgam fillings 20 years ago, you LOVE high-mercury fish like  yours truly…)
  • Arsenic: Contaminated fish, tobacco smoke, arsenic treated wood, ingestion of high-arsenic drinking water.  A big problem here is that much of the water used for organic farms may be contaminated with arsenic, so that even if all organic principles are followed, arsenic levels may be higher for this reason.

So, if you just avoid all these sources of heavy metal exposure listed above, you should be fine.  Cause you’ll be DEAD from not eating, drinking or breathing.

Your best bet is to minimize your exposures where ever you can on top of eating a high-quality diet loaded with lots of protective compounds that can help detoxify some of these heavy metals out of your system or at least mitigate some of the damage heavy metals cause.  And with the New Year right around the corner, it always makes sense to start out the year with some type of physician-oriented detox program to do the best you can clearing out some of the accumulated garbage from the prior year.


James Bogash

For more than a decade, Dr. Bogash has stayed current with the medical literature as it relates to physiology, disease prevention and disease management. He uses his knowledge to educate patients, the community and cyberspace on the best way to avoid and / or manage chronic diseases using lifestyle and targeted supplementation.