"Mercury toxicity should be evaluated in any patient with hypertension, coronary heart disease, cerebral vascular disease, cerebrovascular accident, or other vascular disease." This was the conclusion of an August 2011 study that appeared in the Journal of Clinical Hypertension.
For those of you lucky enough to not know the term, hypertension is the medical name for high-blood pressure. About one out of every three adults in the United States has high blood pressure (National Center for Health Statistics, 2008) so the odds are that at least one of your parents or grandparents is affected. Or, perhaps it you that has high blood pressure? Either way, this is a study you'll want to know about since it clearly connects how mercury toxicity (which can be tested for and reduced) can manifest itself as hypertension and other vascular diseases.
Most research studies you hear about on the evening news or popular science programs are full of data and statistics. These types of studies are typically trying to correlate two facts - such as people with higher mercury exposure have greater incidence of heart disease - and may go future to try to establish causation. However, statistical methods don't ever really settle the causation question. For that we need biochemistry.
Biochemistry is all about understanding the different pathways that nutrients (and toxins) travel in our bodies. This particular study looked at the many internal processes that mercury interferes with in order to establish a biochemical basis for the resulting symptoms - hypertension and coronary heart disease. Here's what they found.
- Inactivates many reactions that depend on sulfer-containing enzymes
- Inactivates many sulfer-containing antioxidants
- Substitutes itself for zinc, copper and other trace minerals in certain reactions
As a result:
- Mitochondria - the energy powerhouses of the cell - malfunction
- The body's oxidative defenses are diminished increasing oxidative stress and inflammation
Which manifests in the body as:
- Hypertension (high blood pressure)
- Coronary heart disease
- Myocardial infarction (heart attack)
- Cardiac arrhythmias
- Renal dysfunction, and
Even if you didn't follow any of the preceding couple paragraphs, you can appreciate the need to 'connect-the-dots' between cellular-level processes and downstream diseases. This study connected the dots between high levels of mercury and the many downstream disease states listed. A brilliant piece of work!
So, what should you do if you have hypertension or other types of coronary heart disease? The study authors advise testing for acute or chronic mercury toxicity. Modern mercury toxicity tests are done using urine, blood, hair and toenail samples so they are minimally invasive and results come back fairly quickly.
Houston, M. (2011, August). Role of mercury toxicity in hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke. Journal of Clinical Hypertension, 13(8), 621-7.
National Center for Health Statistics. (2008). Retrieved August 12, 2011, from Centers for Disease Control: http://www.cdc.gov/nchs/data/hus/hus08.pdf
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