Mercury and the Heart

Mercury is a potent metabolic poison; it harms any living cell or process.

Although mercury is found in many forms, they all have the same effect once they get in the body and reach the cells. The toxic potential of the various forms depends on their ability to enter the body. The most toxic forms of mercury, namely mercury vapor and methylmercury, easily enter the body and penetrate its cells. Inhaled mercury vapor travels rapidly to heart tissue. This type of mercury exposure presents a significantly greater risk to the heart than does mercury consumed in fish (organic mercury) or medications (inorganic mercury).

For more than 70 years, scientific evidence, has demonstrated widespread cardiovascular effects from inorganic mercury and mercury vapor. Studies have revealed that subjects with amalgam fillings experience significant mercury exposure to the tissues of the cardiovascular system and have markedly higher blood pressure, lower heart rate, lower hemoglobin levels, and lower percentages of red blood cells. They also have a greater incidence of impaired cardiac electrical and neurotransmitter function, pathological changes in heart muscle tissue, damage to blood vessels and heart valves, arrhythmias, constriction of coronary arteries, chest pains, rapid heart beat, anemia, increased potential for blood clots, fatigue, tire easily, and are tired in the morning.

These studies have demonstrated how mercury poisoning from inhaled mercury vapor from dental amalgam fillings affects the cardiovascular system. Damage by mercury occurs when it attaches to or enters the cells of the body; no matter what form the mercury is in when it enters the body. Ethylmercury and methylmercury are very toxic forms of mercury because they easily enter the body and its cells. Mercury vapor is also very toxic for the same reason. Medical knowledge about cardiovascular disease was minimal prior to the 20th century. In the mid-19th century, the effect of occupational exposure to mercury in workers in mirror factories and the use of mercury in the treatment of syphilis was being practiced.

In 1861, it was reported that the activity of the involuntary muscles are affected.

Together with a weakness of the voluntary muscles, there was an impairment of the heart. The pulse was slower, with greater lability; resting heart rate was 60-70 beats/minute, but at the slightest agitation, the rate rapidly rose to 80-100. Sometimes pronounced tachycardia occurred. In the 1930s, it was recognized that mercury causes damage to the heart and blood vessels. It was then discovered that mercury poisoning has a paralyzing influence of heart and circulation, followed by a reduction in blood pressure and death. In 1938, researchers found serious vascular damage from mercury exposure.The analysis of cardiovascular disease depends upon sophisticated testing and sophisticated research, neither of which was available until the 20th century. Until recently, the cardiovascular effects of exposure to mercury were not recognized. Medical scientific researchers investigated mercury accumulation in cardiovascular tissue of humans and animals in controlled experiments in the 1950s. The animals exposed to mercury vapor had much higher levels of mercury in the heart and brain, as well as larger amounts in the thyroid, adrenals, spinal ganglia and nerves, testes, and ovaries. Exposure to mercury vapor results in larger accumulation of mercury in the heart than does inorganic mercury.

The mercury levels in the heart were three to four times those found in the brain of exposed animals, after only one hour of exposure. In humans, exposure to mercury vapor results in a high and rapid accumulation of mercury in heart tissue. Levels of inorganic mercury, methylmercury, and total mercury accumulation, were measured and high levels of mercury were found in heart tissue, about the same amounts as were found in the brain. It was also found that the levels of inorganic mercury in the heart increased with age, while the levels of methylmercury decreased. In human autopsy studies, high levels of mercury were found in the pituitary glands of dental personnel and those with amalgams.

Mercury absorbed from dental amalgam is rapidly taken up by the heart tissue, in greater amounts and more rapidly than that which is absorbed into the brain. Mercury specifically derived from dental amalgam fillings also influences heart function by accumulating in the brain, pituitary, thyroid, and adrenals, and are also target organs after exposure to mercury vapor. Among the earliest widespread indications of the cardiovascular effects of mercury were in victims of Acrodynia, a disease syndrome known to be caused by mercury, and was diagnosed primarily in children who were being exposed to various mercury compounds, mostly a mercurous chloride compound called Calomel, which was commonly used as a teething powder and to combat “diaper rash.”

In 1952, it was found that Calomel enhanced the influence of epinephrine (adrenaline) in constricting arteries and causing high blood pressure and tachychardia in children. Science has proven mercury’s toxic action on a wide range of tissues, including those in the cardiovascular system. Researchers have found that mercury affects several aspects of cardiac function, including the ability of heart muscle to contract, the electrical conduction activity in the heart, and the function of regulators of cardiac activity. Mercury toxic subjects exhibited an increased occurrence of rapid heart beat, irregular pulse, chest pains, heart palpitations, and high blood pressure.

Mercury blocks the action of acetylcholine, the neurotransmitter that passes the nerve impulse from the vagus nerve to the heart muscle. Both acetylcholine and the nerve receptors in the heart muscle contain thiol (sulfur/hydrogen) proteins. When mercury attaches to the thiol protein in the heart muscle receptors and in the acetylcholine, the heart muscle can’t receive the vagus nerve electrical impulse for contraction. Mercury accumulates in the heart muscle and heart valves, causing damage by attaching to thiol (SH-) proteins. This damage is indicated by EKG and confirmed by histologic study. The damage is found in the coronary arteries and capillaries supplying blood to the heart tissue and in the heart muscle itself.

Mercury has a high affinity for and readily binds to selenium and to the thiol or sulfhydryl (sulfur/hydrogen combination) sites in living tissues. The higher the attraction between chemicals or elements, the stronger they bond to each other, and the harder it is to separate them. The thiol combination is extremely common in the human body. It occurs as part of certain amino acids, which are building blocks of proteins. Since these amino acids are used to build cells, hormones, and enzymes, the occurrence of the thiol combination in the body is not only common but extremely important, as normal function is altered. There are several thiol sites in the hemoglobin molecule in the red blood cells used to transport oxygen throughout the body. Mercury accumulates in red blood cells in humans and other animals. When mercury attaches to the thiol sites, the hemoglobin can’t carry as much oxygen as it could. This results in decreased availability of oxygen (hypoxia) that is needed by all body cells and explains one way that mercury toxicity can cause chronic fatigue symptoms. This same interference occurs wherever thiols occur in the body, including the cardiovascular system.

The effect on heart function depends on the number of sites blocked by mercury. Another important influence of mercury on the heart function is its adverse affect on the ability of the heart muscle to contract. This is because of the ability of mercury to attach to thiol proteins, this time in the heart muscle itself. Heart muscle consists of two major proteins, actin and myosin. The function of muscle tissue depends on the interaction between these two proteins and their combination to form actomyosin, resulting in tissue contraction. The connection of these two proteins occurs at thiol sites in the myosin molecule. If mercury attaches to those thiol sites, the muscle tissue will not be able to function.

With mercury vapor intoxication, there is a decreased activity of respiratory enzymes and sarcoplasmic ATPase. Cell respiration consists of a series of chemical reactions that provide the needed energy for cell functions. Cell respiratory enzymes are very sensitive to mercury; it alters or inhibits their function by removing the hydrogen atom from the thiol group.

Mercury affects heart function by influencing the hormones from the pituitary gland (pituitrin). Pituitrin contains several active hormones that have a profound and important influence of the body, including one that affects the constriction of arteries. Chronic mercury exposure affects cardiovascular functioning by interfering with cardiovascular regulating hormones (dopamine, epinephrine, and norepinephrine). In test animals, mercury exposure increases the force of heart muscle contraction, causing high blood pressure, by blocking the passage of calcium ions into the heart muscle cells. Low concentrations of various mercury compounds accelerate blood coagulation (clotting) process.

Unborn babies are highly exposed and susceptible from their mothers’ dental amalgam fillings.

Prenatal exposure to mercury produces marked toxicity to babies, including a high incidence of abnormal hearts, characterized by dilation with a thinning and weakening of the heart walls. Inhaled mercury vapor penetrates the placental membrane far more thoroughly than does inorganic mercury, thereby significantly increasing the potential for fetal damage. The integrity and proper function of living cells depends on the ability of certain materials to pass into and out of the cells. The cell membrane contains numerous thiol sites. Mercury binds to these sites and prevents the passage of certain materials into and out of the cells.

Mercury blocks the enzyme in the cell membrane that actively passes calcium in and out of the muscle cells by attaching to the thiol part of the enzyme. Calcium is necessary for the proper function of heart muscle. Hypertension is caused by mercury preventing the passage of calcium into the heart muscle cells, thereby increasing the force of contraction. It takes time for chronic mercury exposure to cause enough damage to manifest as clinically detectable dysfunction. This is characteristic of heart disease. It takes the body 30-70 days to eliminate half of each dose of mercury. If a person is only exposed to very small doses of mercury vapor, but is exposed many times each day, the mercury slowly builds up in body tissues.

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