Microplastics Increase Your Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

April 29, 2024

Microplastics Increase your Risk of Heart Disease and Stroke

This is a huge finding. Published in the apex journal of American Medicine, The New England Journal of Medicine, is a groundbreaking study looking at the relationship of microplastics to heart disease and stroke.

Carried out in Italy, the authors looked at the atheromas excised out of carotid arteries in folks who had that surgery for the usual indications such as a TIA or stroke. Microplastics and nanoplastics were quantified by the use of superheated–gas chromatography–mass spectrometry, stable isotope analysis, and electron microscopy. In other words, the authors pushed the boundaries to find evidence of the micro-nanoplastics any which way they could. Inflammatory biomarkers were measured with enzyme-linked immunosorbent assay and immunohistochemical assay.

Sixty percent of the atheromas had detectable evidence of micro/nano plastics. That's huge, particularly when you consider that those who had detectable micro/nano plastics were 4.5 times as likely to have a stroke/heart attack in the subsequent 39 months as the controls who didn't have any detectable plastics.

Half of Western society folks, men and women, are dying of vascular disease. It doesn't matter if it's a heart attack or a stroke, both kill you.

This finding rewrites the atherosclerosis story. The rise of microplastics coincides with the "epidemic" of vascular disease. Association does not causation make....but smoke sure suggests something is smoldering if not burning.

We have been barking up the cholesterol tree for some 60 years, ever since Eisenhower had his first heart attack in the White House. Certainly, there is cholesterol accumulating in an atheroma. But blaming it as the cause is sort of like blaming trees for causing a forest fire. Certainly, the trees burn, but I'm more worried about the lack of rain and lightning strikes or discarded cigarettes than the trees. And the recent discovery that folks live longer with a total LDL of 135 or total cholesterol over 210-240 has eroded the confidence that the cholesterol hypothesis is the root cause. Taking a statin is sort of like cutting down the whole forest to stop forest fires. Yup, it sort of helps.

Now, with the discovery of low plasmalogens and endothelial dysfunction being the root cause and the better predictor or heart disease than cholesterol, we can offer up a better hypothesis. Microplastics certainly cause excess oxidative stress. That essentially means mitochondria are struggling and not able to hang onto electrons. Electrons escape the mitochondria, get turned into peroxide by catalase to get the "hot potato" out of the cell. That peroxide then attacks any plasmalogen molecule with its precious vinyl ether bond. That chemical reaction neutralizes the peroxide. It releases malondialdehyde in that chemical interaction.  At the end of the day, that depletion of plasmalogens causes the endothelial cells to retract and separate from one another. 

Is malondialdehyde elevated in coronary artery disease? Yup, yup, yup. We've known this for over 7 years.

Oxidative stress depletes plasmalogens in the arteries. Gaps appear in the wall of the artery. White cells then attack because it looks like a damaged cell that needs to be cleaned up. Oxidized, sticky LDLs begin to accumulate. That's all true. But blaming the LDL is a little late to the party.

Microplastics aren't the only cause of oxidative stress. Visceral fat, diabetes (probably caused by visceral fat), smoking, sitting too long, other toxins, sugar, and ultra-processed food are all candidates eagerly raising their hands to take credit for killing us by slow oxidation. But microplastics might have just "bucked in line" pretty close to the front. Jerks!

www.What will Work for me? What we need to be measuring are markers of oxidative stress, not cholesterol. Malondialdehyde is available as a test kit but is not available to use in the commercial sphere just yet. But each of us can reflect back and consider the last time you drank water from a plastic bottle. Was it earlier today or yesterday....? Hmm??? How about the takeout you heated in the microwave? How about the leftovers you put into a plastic container? The organic yogurt you bought in the plastic container? The deli items you bought in Styrofoam? This is a total bummer. On taking plasmalogens, my total cholesterol finally cracked 200. My HDLs are now 56, for the first time in history. At least I'm repairing my plasmalogen deficit. And I just ordered Nitric Oxide for a refill. All these supplements add up but having a stroke adds up more.

References: NEJM, Jr Cardiovasc Thorac Res., Medical News Today,

Pop Quiz:

1. Where did the authors of the above-referenced study find microplastics?                          Answer: In the "atheroma" (cholesterol pool) excised surgically out of carotids in people who had TIAs and strokes and ultrasounds on their necks revealed critical narrowing.

2. What percent of folks had plastics embedded in their atheromas?                          Answer: 60%. Majority.

3. What was the risk those microplastics conferred?                         Answer: 4.5 times increased rate of some sort of atherosclerotic disease. Huge!

4. What is the source of those microplastics?                         Answer: Just look around your kitchen.

5. What do we do next?                       Answer: No mean feat. It's up to you. Figure it out.