Increased levels of lead and mercury in the blood could raise bad cholesterol levels, known to damage arteries, and increase the risk of heart disease and stroke, according to a preliminary research.
The findings by researchers from the Jacobi Medical Center in New York City showed that people with a high level of lead had 56 per cent greater odds of having higher total cholesterol and 22 per cent more likely to have higher bad cholesterol or lower density lipoprotein (LDL).
Those with the highest levels of mercury in their blood were 73 per cent more likely to have higher total cholesterol, while those with increased cadmium levels in the blood had a 41 per cent higher risk of cholesterol.
In addition, mercury levels increased the odds for higher LDL by 23 per cent among those who fell in the middle for their heavy metal levels, compared to those with the lowest level.
The rise in cholesterol seen with increasing heavy metal levels in the blood might have cardiovascular consequences in people exposed to heavy metals, such as in areas with disaster water crises, the researchers said.
This suggests the need for screening for heavy metals as a risk for high cholesterol and cardiovascular disease, they said.
The results will be presented at the American Heart Association's Scientific Sessions 2018 in Chicago.
For the study, the team reviewed information from a national representative database which includes cholesterol levels and blood levels of heavy metals among US adults.
They found a notable difference between those with the least blood levels of heavy metal and those with the most, with LDL becoming progressively higher as lead levels increased.