Homocysteine: Critical Marker of Cardiovascular Risk

Homocysteine: Critical Marker of Cardiovascular Risk

Homocysteine is a toxic amino acid that can damage the linings of your arteries and considerably increase your risk for a heart attack and stroke.  It is an independent risk factor, meaning that even if there are no other signs or symptoms, elevation of this marker poses a risk of  silent attack on your arteries.  If high blood pressure is present, the danger from homocysteine is even greater.

The ‘Homocysteine Theory of Arteriosclerosis’ (hardening of the arteries) was presented by Kilmer S. McCully, M.D. in his book ‘The Homocysteine Revolution’ (1997).  It states that arteriosclerosis is caused by an elevated blood homocysteine level that occurs in the presence of vitamin B6, B12, and folic acid deficiencies.  Each one of these help the liver enzymes to metabolize homocysteine.

According to a study in the New England Journal of Medicine (N Engl J Med. 2002 Feb 14;346(7):476-83), elevated homocysteine was found to be a strong independent risk factor for development of dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.

A study of over 1000 subjects from the Framingham Heart Study showed that the higher the level of homocysteine, the greater the degree of narrowing of the carotid arteries to the brain (which is a prime contributor to strokes).  A subsequent study found that increased risk of early onset (before age 55) heart disease, cerbrovascular disease, and peripheral vascular disease correlates with blood homocysteine levels greater than 14.

What is a good homocysteine blood level?  From the chart below we can see that if cardiovascular disease (CVD) is present, levels less than 6 are the ideal and predict a 99% chance of living 10 years regardless of your age.  A level of 15 will drop your probability of living the next 10 years to just 60%, and a level of 18 drops it to just 40% in the presence of CVD.  These are staggering statistics, especially when we know the high prevalence of CVD in our society, coupled with the fact that many of these people do not know their homocysteine level.  This is a lethal combination.

What can you do?

(1) Know your cardiovascular risk; schedule a yearly ‘Prevent-An-Event’ cardiovascular health screening at Expanding Choices, Inc.  This non-invasive, in-office, FDA approved testing will provide state-of-the-art risk assessment and uncover CVD at it earliest stages when it is more readily treated and “regressed.”

(2)  Know your homocysteine level: As part of the ‘Prevent-An-Event’ screening you will have your homocysteine level assessed.  It is important to check your level every year.

(3) Eat nutrient-dense whole foods that contain lots of B vitamins such as egg yolks, salmon, avocados, green vegetables, lentils, nuts and seeds, liver and sweet potatoes.  Note that the amount of Vitamin B6 decreases in canned and frozen foods.  Vitamin B6 is depleted by 40 – 50% in canned meats and fish, and by 60 – 75% in canned vegetables.  B6 is depleted by an average of 15% when freezing vegetables.                                            

Folic acid is depleted anywhere from 25-75% in cereals, dairy products, meats and vegetables that are refined, processed and preserved as compared to fresh.                       

The decline in blood levels of vitamin B6 with aging is quite striking, leading to levels only 1/4 to 1/3 the levels found in babies and young people.  Folic acid and vitamin B12 levels also decline with aging.

(4) Take a “quality” supplement with B6, B12, and folic acid as prescribed.  A 1995 study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association suggested that the addition of folic acid to the food supply could save a minimum of 50,000 American lives each year from heart disease alone.

Knowing your homocysteine level can add usable years to your life!  Call today for a “Prevent-An-Event’ screening: 505-508-1745.