A growing body of medical literature has discovered the damaging effects of mercury on endothelial (the inner lining of blood vessels) function and vascular smooth muscle function. Mercury induces mitochondrial dysfunction with reduction in adenosine triphosphate (ATP), depletion of glutathione, and increased lipid peroxidation. Increased oxidative stress and reduced oxidative defense are common.
The overall vascular effects of mercury include increased oxidative stress and inflammation, reduced oxidative defense, risk of blood clots, abnormal cholesterol levels, and immune and mitochondrial dysfunction.
The clinical consequences of mercury toxicity include hypertension, coronary heart disease, myocardial infarction, cardiac arrhythmias, reduced heart rate variability, increased carotid artery wall thickness and carotid artery obstruction, cerebrovascular accident (stroke), generalized atherosclerosis, and kidney dysfunction.
Mechanism of Mercury in Hypertension
Mercury inactivates catecholamine-0-methyl transferase (COMT). COMT is an enzyme principally involved in catabolism (the breaking down) of catecholamines at the sympathetic nerve endings.
Catecholamines are hormones made by the adrenal glands. These glands are on top of the kidneys. Catecholamines into the blood when a person is under physical or emotional stress. The main catecholamines are dopamine, norepinephrine, and epinephrine (which used to be called adrenalin).
Mercury negatively affects the COMT enzyme resulting in an increase of serum and urinary epinephrine, norepinephrine, and dopamine . This effect will increase blood pressure and can provide a clinical clue to mercury-induced heavy metal toxicity.
It is important to note that mercury diminishes the protective effect of fish and omega-3 fatty acids which has been found to have value in reducing high blood pressure. Mercury toxicity should be evaluated in any patient with hypertension, coronary heart disease, cerebrovascular disease, stroke, or other vascular disease.
If you are suffering with hypertension it is of vital importance to have your doctor order the following labs: Erythrocyte and whole blood toxic element levels and/or a 24 hour toxic metal urine tests using a challenging chelating agent like DMSA. A finding of high mercury body burden may be the missing piece of the puzzle in reducing high blood pressure. It is appropriate to mention that not every case of hypertension is due to heavy metals and a through examination and investigation should be performed to determine the cause of hypertension.
If your test reveals high levels of mercury it is important to find a licensed naturopathic doctor or a doctor trained in functional medicine and is able to prescribe an effective protocol to chelate the toxic metal and decrease the load on your body. Dr. Soszka performs heavy metal testing and treatment to patients in his clinic.
Houston MC, Role of mercury toxicity in hypertension, cardiovascular disease, and stroke.J Clin Hypertens (Greenwich). 2011 Aug;13(8):621-7 PMID:21806773
This article is compliments of Functional Medicine University.