That X-Ray Could Give You A Heart Attack

Photo by Michael Baird (Creative Commons License)

Photo by Michael Baird (Creative Commons License)

Researchers from the UK have found that small levels of radiation could lead to heart attacks and other cardiovascular problems. The findings were published this week on the journal of PLoS Computational Biology.

According to the Science Daily, researchers from Imperial College London created a computer model which showed that low radiation levels currently perceived to be safe, could actually cause heart disease and strokes:

For some time, scientists have understood how high-dose radiotherapy (RT) causes inflammation in the heart and large arteries and how this results in the increased levels of cardiovascular disease observed in many groups of patients who receive RT. However, in the last few years, studies have shown that there may also be cardiovascular risks associated with the much lower fractionated doses of radiation…

How low the dosage of radiation has to be in order to be harmful to the human body is still to be determined, but researchers suspect that the safety of medical and dental X-rays has been probably underestimated.

Cardiovascular disease is one of leading causes of death in industrialized countries. In the U.S. about 2,400 Americans die of heart disease according to the American Heart Association:

[Cardiovascular disease] claims about as many lives each year as cancer, chronic lower respiratory diseases, accidents and diabetes mellitus combined.

One of the researchers, Dr. Mark Little, says that radiation affects the cardiovascular system because it “kills monocytes (a type of white blood cell) in the arterial wall.” When this happens there is inflammation of the arteries which leads to cardiovascular disease.

The computer model findings will be investigated further, reports the Science Daily.