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Issue #38: Bisphenol-A Linked to Cardiac Arrhythmia in Women

Heart

My Mom's Scary Experience with Endocrine Disruptors

News of a link between BPA and heart arrhythmia in women really hit home for me. I’ve spent the last six years fighting a battle to decrease exposure to BPA in children and pregnant moms without giving older women much thought. So when my Mom ended up in the emergency room two years ago with atrial fibrillation, you can bet that BPA wasn’t anywhere in my line of thought. She’s always been so vibrant and healthy, that atrial fibrillation seemed totally out of place. What in the world had caused it to suddenly appear out of nowhere?

I felt completely helpless as she lay there breathless and spent in a hospital bed, awaiting a scary procedure to shock her heart back into rhythm. All went well with the procedure, but she was now required to take heart medication that left her feeling strange as it regulated the beating of her heart.  The cardiologist said there was no hope of ever being free of it if she wanted to stay alive.

Over the next six months, everything seemed to be okay until she had another atrial fibrillation emergency.   She was admitted to the hospital and ordered not to eat or drink anything by mouth in preparation for the same cardioversion procedure.  But after fasting for 24 hours, her blood sugar levels began to dip too low and the nurse brought her a little bit of orange juice.   A few minutes after she drank it, she felt her heart pop back into rhythm and the procedure was cancelled.

My Mom’s a Rebel

That experience got her to thinking that there had to be another explanation – and possible solution – to her new problem, so  she set off in search of the underlying cause.  Medical literature didn’t shed much light on the subject and claimed an idiopathic (or unknown) origin, listed it as incurable, and recommended lifelong medication and invasive treatments as the only way to control it.

Undeterred, she insisted that her genetic makeup had little to do with her new found problem, so she scrutinized her lifestyle and began to experiment with changes in her diet.  She found several studies indicating that high glycemic foods could cause a spike in blood sugar, followed by an increase in insulin levels, which could then trigger arrhythmia.  She eliminated overt sugars and gluten from her diet and noticed a change right away.  When she tested the theory by adding them back in, the arrhythmia kicked up again.  She continued her experimentation by focusing on eating fresh, whole foods instead of pre-packaged fake foods made with a slurry of unknown chemicals.  She also followed a recommendation by Dr. Mercola, and began a combination of cardio and muscle building exercise to keep the electrical system running properly.  The results were amazing, and she was able to talk her physician into allowing her to taper down the medication.

Today she’s on much lower dose, but  I still worry about the periodic flutters she experiences.  Now it seems we may have gotten a little clue to something else we never dreamed of in this new study linking BPA to irregular heart beats though….

BPA and Estrogen Team Up to Cause Havoc in Female Hearts

New research, published in the February 2012 issue of Endocrinology, now finds that low levels of BPA can cause heart arrhythima in women because of its hormone mimicking effect on the heart.  Wang’s team found that parts-per-trillion concentrations of BPA caused heart-muscle cells to shift their beat from that of the body’s central pacemaker. The unsynchronized beating can cause arrhythmia, and possibly trigger sudden cardiac death.  The study also found that equal doses of estrogen and BPA together increases the cardiac effect more than a double dose of either substance on its own.

While it may seem that BPA is the devil here, it’s even scarier to think that this ubiquitous endocrine disrupting chemical is just one of the culprits causing unnecessary health damage to Americans. Phthalates, halogenated flame retardants,  polychlorinated biphenyl (PCB), pesticides, perfluorooctanesulfonic acid (PFOS) and many more are also to blame. We’re surrounded by them in everyday products, and the problem is that we don’t always know they’re there.

So no matter how much lobbying the chemical industry does and no matter how many counter-initiatives they launch to keep us believing that these chemicals are harmless, we must insist on proof of safety before an endocrine-disrupting hazard is woven into the very fabric of our society.

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