If you’ve been following health news in the past years you’ll know that homocysteine is the new LDL/HDL combination.
Researchers and scientists once pointed to cholesterol and triglyceride levels as the ultimate measurement of potential risk for heart attacks and strokes. But today doctors know that there are other factors that contribute to illnesses and conditions.
Knowing these other factors can help you to prevent heart disease, stroke and coronary artery disease. Homocysteine has also been found to have a role in osteoporosis, concentration and underachievement or diabetes.
Homocysteine and Methionine
Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced by the body as it digests proteins. An elevation in plasma homocysteine is linked with a higher risk of cardiovascular disease.
The conversion happens with the ingestion of methionine, commonly found in fish, turkey, eggs, cottage cheese, chicken and beef. The methionine is digested and forms homocysteine.
If the body adds a different methyl group to the molecule then either S-adenosyl methionine or glutathione is produced, both of which are linked with protection against disease.
There are several factors that can lead to increased homocysteine levels in the blood.
These factors include alcohol intake, age, kidney failure, post-menopause, smoking, or a previous heart attack or stroke. There are also medications that have been shown to increase the homocysteine level – niacin, metformin (diabetes), methotrexate, levodopa and phenytoin.
Arterial Wall Damage
The theory is that when homocysteine levels are elevated they injure the arterial walls and it promotes the growth of smooth muscle cells in the artery which narrows the opening. In more recent research scientists have found that homocysteine increases the risk of blood clots.
Research has found that increasing your intake of L-methylfolate, vitamin b12 and Vitamin B6 will reduce elevated levels of homocysteine by up to 70%. There are blood tests that can measure you levels of homocysteine and predict your risk for disease.
People who should consider being tested are those with a family history of cardiovascular disease, diabetes, smokers, high blood pressure, high cholesterol and kidney failure.
There are several factors that go into living a healthy lifestyle that leads to a long and healthy life. Cholesterol and triglyceride levels are important but are not the only criteria.
Homocysteine levels can be controlled through diet, and are an important factor in the prevention of heart disease and stroke.
For More Information:
American Heart Association: Homocysteine, Folic Acid and Cardiovascular Disease
Circulation: Homocysteine and MTHFR Mutations
Linus Pauling Institute: The Vascular Toxicity of Homocystine and how to Control it
Annual Review of Medicine: Homocysteine and Cardiovascular Disease
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Dose-Dependent Effects of Folic Acid on Blood Concentrations for Homocysteine
American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Homocysteine and Cardiovascular Disease
American Heart Journal: Homocysteine and Cardiovascular Disease
Harvard Health Publication: B Vitamins and Homocysteine
Top Photo by Sara