Atrial Fibrillation (AFib) is a heart rhythm disturbance that causes irregular heartbeats. It can lead to severe complications if not treated. AFib is generally caused by a disturbance to the electrical impulses that control the beating of your heart. The heart’s upper chambers, known as the atria, contract and relax out of sync with each other. This causes them to quiver instead of beating normally, which leads to an irregular heartbeat. The irregular heartbeats caused by AFib are felt as heart palpitations or skipped beats (arrhythmia). They may also lead to shortness of breath or dizziness as they lower the oxygen levels in your blood, making you feel lightheaded. Patients that suffer from AFib experience chest pain/pressure that mimics an angina (chest pain caused by coronary artery disease). However, it’s vital to remember that this type of pain does not necessarily mean you have coronary artery disease. It could just be from AFib itself. With that said, let’s discuss whether or not exposure to certain chemicals causes AFib.
In short, Yes! A study by the American Heart Association (ref. link) found that people working in jobs with high exposure to chemicals have a higher risk of developing AFib. The chemicals in question include those used in manufacturing and industrial settings, as well as those found in cleaning products and pesticides. These chemicals are called cardiac toxins and can cause inflammation and oxidative stress on your body, increasing your risk of developing an arrhythmia (irregular heartbeat). These effects are especially pronounced if you’ve been exposed to these cardiac toxins for long periods or multiple times throughout your life.
Environmental chemical exposure is a common cause of heart disease, with several studies demonstrating this connection with Chemical Cardioversion. The most common chemicals linked to cardiovascular damage include dioxin (a byproduct of some manufacturing processes), polychlorinated biphenyls (PCBs), asbestos, and cigarette smoke. Dioxin is a cardiac toxin that has been shown to cause heart damage by increasing oxidative stress on the heart. Oxidative stress occurs when the body’s ability to neutralize free radicals is overwhelmed, thereby damaging your heart tissue. It can lead to atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries) and hypertension (high blood pressure). The most common cardiac toxins are inorganic mercury, which is often found in the form of thimerosal. Thimerosal is a preservative used in vaccines to prevent bacterial contamination. Inorganic mercury can be inhaled or ingested through food or water. However, it can also be absorbed through skin contact or through air contaminated with mercury vapor. The main concern about inorganic mercury exposure is its potential to cause neurological damage.
Thallium is another toxic heavy metal linked to heart problems when one is exposed for long periods (e.g., from drinking water). However, there are no known cases where thallium poisoning from environmental exposire has been linked directly to heart health issues; instead, it’s typically seen as a result of occupational exposure (e.g., working with thallium-containing compounds such as insecticides). Other metals like arsenic may also cause heart problems when they enter the body through water or food sources. However, this type of exposure would likely require large amounts over long periods (i.e., years).
Another harmful chemical is Benzene, an organic compound that’s found in crude oil. It’s also used to make plastics and other products. Patients living near an oil refinery or chemical plant may be exposed to high levels of benzene in the air, soil, and water. Benzene can damage your heart muscles by reducing their ability to contract properly, leading to heart failure and an irregular heartbeat (arrhythmia). When this happens with long-term exposure, there could be permanent damage to your heart muscles.
Now that we know everything about chemical exposure and how it affects the heart, let’s discuss the methods to prevent chemical exposure from causing AFib.
There are several ways to prevent exposure to cardiac toxins that may cause AFib.
So, can exposure to chemicals cause AFib? The answer is yes. Patients with heart health problems must be aware of the risks of exposure to cardiac toxins. It’s also important to realize that there are ways for you to protect yourself from these risks. For instance, patients must follow all safety protocols and wear protective gear if they work in a chemically hazardous environment. If you’re worried about exposure to cardiac toxins causing your AFib, consult a doctor immediately. Sometimes medication can help reduce symptoms of cardiac toxicity or Afib, while other times, surgery is necessary.
Specific circumstances can bring on an episode of atrial fibrillation, such as :
According to a recent study (ref. link), exposure to phthalates (which are included in many plastics) may increase the chances of death from cardiovascular disease. Phthalates, often known as plasticizers, give vinyl polymers their suppleness and flexibility.
Signs and Symptoms of cardiac toxicity might include :
Other Heart Health Topics To Explore:
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