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We recently learned of some important research that will be presented next month at the American Academy of Neurology annual meeting in Hawaii. British researchers have uncovered compelling evidence of a possible cause of Alzheimer’s disease which affects approximately half a million individuals in Britain alone.
Elevations in homocysteine, a molecule in our bloodstream, are increasingly being linked to dementia and loss of memory. In the British study, MR scans were performed on more than one thousand apparently healthy individuals between the ages of 60 to 70 years old. It will be reported that those individuals who had higher homocysteine levels six or eight years earlier had generally smaller brain volumes and performed less well in tests. Professor Smith from Oxford University has indicated that as many as 15% of all dementia cases may be due to homocysteine and that reducing high levels in the blood stream could theoretically prevent hundreds of thousands of cases. For the last several months I have been measuring homocysteine levels in my patients with dementia and have consistently seen elevations.
American researchers for the last several years have likewise been noting this very strong correlation. Homocysteine clearly has a negative effect on both arteries and veins and appears to have a toxic effect on the brain itself.
In a related article on homocysteine published in the March issue of the Journal of the American Medical Association, it was indicated that high plasma homocysteine levels appeared to be a clear risk factor for congestive heart failure, especially in women. In this study, approximately 25,000 men and women who enrolled in the Framingham heart study over twenty years ago were prospectively followed for six to ten years. It was found that those individuals with the highest levels of homocysteine in their blood had an approximately four-fold higher risk of developing congestive heart failure compared to the lowest group. Keep in mind that these individuals did not have a prior history of heart attack and that the elevation in plasma homocysteine concentration appeared to be independently related to development of congestive heart failure.
Many other studies in the medical literature have indicated a clear correlation between the level of homocysteine in the blood and the risk of developing heart attacks, stroke and even phlebitis. In a recent article in the British Medical Journal, it was calculated that consumption of 800 mcg of folic acid daily would lower homocysteine levels sufficiently to reduce the risk of an individual suffering a heart attack by 16%, stroke by 24% and thrombophlebitis by 25%. I have stressed over and over again in these blog posts the importance of having your homocysteine measured and followed on a regular basis. If your doctor is unwilling to order a homocysteine level, you should seriously consider looking for another health care provider. This is no longer considered an experimental test and proper lowering of homocysteine level could literally save your life.
The solution for lowering homocysteine is easy. Taking adequate amounts of folic acid, B6 and B12 is important.
There have been some studies indicating that as much as 10 mg (10,000 mcg) of folic acid per day are necessary to lower homocysteine. Other nutrients that may help include trimethylglycine (betaine), N-acetyl cysteine (NAC), zinc (L-OptiZinc is the best antioxidant form of zinc), inositol and SAMe.
Each capsule should provide 50 mg vitamin B6, 2 mg (2,000 mcg) folic acid, 2 mg (2,000 mcg) B12 (methylcobalamin), 300 mg NAC, zinc and inositol.
It’s important to have these essential core vitamins necessary for lowering your homocysteine levels. As noted above, for more serious cases of high homocysteine levels, 4 – 10 mgs a day of folic acid and perhaps 2 mg or more of B12 and up to 200 mg of B6 may be necessary. Additionally, taking trimethylglycine up to 6 to 8 g daily, N-acetyl cysteine (NAC) 2 gm daily may also be required.
HOMOCYSTEINE GUIDELINES: Current lab tests will indicate normal homocysteine is up to 15 mcmol/L. The optimal range of less than 7.2 mcmol/L should be your target.
It would appear that the earlier that one effectively lowers homocysteine, the greater the benefit. Don’t wait until you’ve had your first heart attack, stroke or show signs of memory loss to address this issue. Schedule that visit with your health care provider and get your homocysteine level done right away.
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