Be careful where your water comes from, because contaminated water could contribute to heart issues, according to a new report.
Researchers from Hospital Hietzing in Austria recently conducted a study, published in the Circulation: Cardiovascular Imaging journal, to determine the association between heart damage and water contaminated by arsenic, a toxic metalloid.
To do so, they examined arsenic exposure by taking urine samples from 1,337 adults around 30 years old. They then evaluated the size, shape and function of their hearts using ultrasound. The subjects, who did not have diabetes or heart disease at the start of the assessment, were followed for five years.
After analyzing the results, they found the study participants had a 47% increased chance of thickening of the heart’s main pumping chamber. They also discovered there was 58% greater chance of thickening of the left ventricle for those with high blood pressure. Such structural changes could increase the risk of for future heart problems.
“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,” coauthor Gernot Pichler said in a statement.
The team did acknowledge some limitations. They noted they had only one measure of arsenic exposure and did not have a long-term follow-up.
However, they believe their findings “are likely to be generalizable to millions of people in other rural locations exposed to low or moderate levels of arsenic in their water.”
They now hope their evaluations will encourage future studies on whether the changes are reversal. They also want to explore the potential health impact of reducing arsenic levels.