Homocysteine (To Lower)

Homocysteine (To Lower)

There’s a strong association between high homocysteine levels and heart disease. Blockages in the blood vessels leading to the heart (a cause of heart attacks) occur twice as often in those with higher homocysteine levels. But is homocysteine the cause or merely a sign?

It appears to cause free radical and inflammatory damage to blood vessels resulting in blood clots and atherosclerosis (fatty deposits in blood vessels), leading to heart attacks and stroke. Despite these effects and some research definitively stating that high homocysteine increases your risk for these conditions, the American Heart Association (AHA) stops short of placing blame because studies have thus far failed to show that lowering homocysteine in humans reduces risk.

Perhaps, high homocysteine is an indicator of heart disease, rather than a cause? Either way, the link’s loud and clear, spelling trouble. Aiming rather to be safe than sorry, the AHA recommends that those at risk for heart disease get enough folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12. You’re at risk if you smoke, have diabetes, a family history of heart disease or high cholesterol or blood pressure, or if you’re sedentary or obese.

Other health conditions linked to high homocysteine include cancer, brain problems (dementia), eyesight difficulties (age-related macular degeneration) and pregnancy complications (foetal growth restriction).  And with more of homocysteine’s damaging effects being uncovered it may not be long before a causal link is established.

But homocysteine’s not all bad. Although far less common, too little homocysteine can negatively impact immune function and multiple body functions.

To avoid high homocysteine levels be sure to keep your stress levels low, your weight in check and get moving. A diet high in fruit and vegetables (fibre, antioxidants, folic acid), fatty fish (omega-3 fats) and moderate red wine or beer may also help. Don’t smoke or drink excessive alcohol (more than two glasses of wine a day) and coffee (over three cups daily). And consider supplementing with homocysteine-reducing nutrients, especially if you’re at risk for heart disease or stroke. If you’re worried, get your homocysteine levels tested. If it’s too high, consider healthy lifestyle changes and homocysteine-reducing supplementation.


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