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Environmental toxins surround us every day, contributing to a nationwide increase in illness and chronic disease. Just recently, a new study examined the presence of one toxin in particular—arsenic—in U.S. well water and found that it raises heart health risks significantly.

Although most Americans rely on municipal (or public) water, roughly 15 million households (mainly in rural areas) use well water. This is important because while public water is required by the EPA to adhere to a 10 parts-per-billion safety standard for arsenic to avoid the harmful effects of chronic arsenic exposure, well water is not—and in some cases levels are more than a hundred times higher than the so-called “safe” standard.

For the study, researchers from the Johns Hopkins Bloomberg School of Public Health looked at a handful of Native American populations in areas of the Dakotas and southwestern United States whose primary source of water is well water. Their goal was to determine whether or not there was a link between arsenic in the water and a higher incidence of heart disease; as it turns out, there’s a big one.

After analyzing the urine samples of roughly 4,000 individuals, they discovered that the higher the level of arsenic in the urine, the higher the prevalence of atherosclerosis (plaque buildup in the arteries), stroke and heart attack. And in those with chronic arsenic exposure, heart disease rates were often doubled. Previous studies conducted outside the U.S. have had similar results.

Though not a heavy metal, researchers say, arsenic shares similar qualities and may cause damage to the cells and blood vessels around the heart. There is also evidence it may trigger an abnormal inflammation response in the body as well as affect healthy metabolism by disrupting the breakdown of fats, both of which can contribute to harmful plaque buildup.

As scientists continue to examine the link between arsenic exposure from well water and heart health risks, they are also looking into raising awareness in the medical community about the harmful effects of environmental toxins. One possible solution in this case is the use of water filters as well as chelation treatment (which helps remove stored metals from the body’s cells and tissues).

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More than 29 million people in the United States (or nearly 10% of the total population) have diabetes—a term given to a group of diseases marked by high blood sugar and abnormal production and/or function of the hormone insulin.

Because diabetics have an increased risk of heart disease, stroke, kidney failure, blindness and even premature death, organizations like the American Diabetes Association (ADA) strive to help raise awareness about who it affects and why. American Diabetes Month®, celebrated each November, is an important part of their efforts.

The theme this year—America Gets Cooking to Stop Diabetes®—focuses on inspiring people to eat (and cook) healthier foods and to stay active throughout the year. Events will take place throughout the month to help bring people together in an effort to learn more about the link between a healthy lifestyle and diabetes prevention, and on their website the ADA will spotlight ideas and activities for families and individuals.

Want to know more? View previous blogs for additional information
and tips on diabetes prevention and management:

 

Review: Diet Critical to Type 2 Diabetes Prevention and Control (includes 5 simple tips for improving diet quality!)

Kids & Diabetes Study, Plus 4 Tips for Parents (hint: your children are counting on YOU to set the example)

New Study Shows Nuts are Good for Your Heart, Blood Sugar (and other reasons why you should add a handful of nuts to your daily diet)

Study: Obese Preschoolers at Risk for Health Problems Earlier in Adulthood (and yes, that includes diabetes)

High Blood Sugar Not a Problem? Think Again. (this eye-opening infographic says it all!)

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