Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced in our bodies as part of normal metabolism. For the last couple of years, I have done periodic blog posts on this very important subject. Now in the most recent issue of the prestigious British Medical Journal, researchers have analyzed seventy two different studies regarding homocysteine. It was concluded that there were significant associations between the level of homocysteine and the likelihood of developing ischemic heart disease, deep vein thrombosis with pulmonary embolism and stroke. Levels above nine increase the risk of these diseases. The British Medical Journal concluded that by lowering your homocysteine level by 3 or more, you could reduce the risk of heart disease by 16%, deep vein thrombosis by 25% and stroke by 24%.
The mechanism by which homocysteine causes damage to both arteries and veins is not certain. It may be that prolonged elevations of homocysteine lead to an increase risk of blood clotting combined with the way the blood vessels dilate. There has also been a series of recent studies in the medical literature indicating that elevations in homocysteine can lead to the development of Alzheimer’s disease and other forms of dementia.
The importance of homocysteine cannot be overemphasized. If you do not know your homocysteine level, see your personal physician and insist that your draw be drawn. The ideal level is in the 5 – 6 range and certainly less than 9. Unfortunately, many doctors in this country are still not up to speed on latest data on homocysteine. If your doctor plays down the importance of homocysteine, you may want to refer him or her to see the November 23 issue of the British Medical Journal.
There are literally tens of millions of people in this country that are walking around unaware they have elevated homocysteine levels. Your homocysteine level should be as well known to you as your cholesterol level since the risks of elevated homocysteine, in point of fact, may be more than elevations in cholesterol.
The good news is that proper nutrition can significantly reduce homocysteine levels. The most commonly utilized nutrients are folic acid, B6 and B12. Taking the typical once-a-day vitamin that you find in your supermarket or even many health food store brands will clearly not provide you enough of these important B vitamins to produce any meaningful lowering in your homocysteine level.
One should take a minimum of 800 mcg of folic acid to as high as 4,000 mcg (4 mg) daily. Vitamin B6 should be in the 50 to 200 mg a day range with vitamin B12 dose (preferably the active form called methylcobalamin) at 500 – 2,000 mcg daily. In the event that these nutrients do not cause a substantial lowering of your homocysteine level, there are other nutrients that are beneficial, including trimethylglycine (betaine HCI) at 3,000 mg – 6,000 mg per day and SAMe at 800 mg per day.
A good B complex vitamin is one with each capsule providing 100 mg of vitamin B6, 500 mcg of methylcobalamin, 800 mcg of folic acid along with other important nutrients. The treatment of elevated homocysteine levels can be so simple and yet, if neglected, the results can be devastating.