Ho Ho Ho…(!!!) How high is your homocysteine?

If you know what your cholesterol levels are, and the ratio of HDL/LDL – how about knowing what your homocysteine levels are?

WHAT IS IT?
Homocysteine is an amino acid that is produced in the body in the course of methionine metabolism. This amino acid has been the focus of increasing attention in recent years because high levels in the blood are associated with an increased risk of cardiovascular disease.

WHAT DOES IT DO?
It has a toxic effect on cells lining the arteries making blood more prone to clot and promotes the oxidation of LDL (the “bad” cholesterol) which makes it more likely that cholesterol will be deposited as plaque in the blood vessels. Like many amino acids it does perform a necessary function in the body, however a genetic defect or more commonly, deficiencies of vitamins B6 and B12 and folate (folic acid) can prevent it from converting rapidly enough. Vitamins B6 and B12 and folate work together to help the breakdown of homocysteine.

WHAT DO HIGH LEVELS MEAN?
Homocysteine is an excellent indicator in assessing cardiovascular disease with research showing that a three point decrease in levels (umol/L) reduces the risk of:

Heart attacks by 16%
Strokes by 24%
Deep Vein Thrombosis by 25%

It is now used as a clear indicator of future troubles for all manner of disease and is linked to more than 100 other serious medical conditions including: arthritis, diabetes, some cancers, Alzheimer’s disease, Parkinson’s disease, problem pregnancies and birth defects.

There are high risk groups and low risk groups and the only way to find out is to have a test. High risk groups include people who don’t exercise, are overweight, diabetes sufferers, smokers, those on a poor diet and people who drink too much alcohol and coffee. Even those with active healthy lifestyles may still be at risk if there is a family history of high homocysteine levels. Levels also increase with age, oestrogen deficiency, and on some medications e.g. corticosteroids and some cancer treatment drugs. Strict vegetarians and vegans can also be at risk and stress can be an aggravating factor too.

WHAT CAN I DO TO PREVENT IT?
1) Get your levels tested – some GP’s now offer this, or consult a nutritionist
2)If your levels are found to be raised, supplement your diet with folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12
3)Stop smoking
4)Maintain a healthy diet – high in garlic, onions and apples (which lower cholesterol) and fresh fruit, vegetables, wholegrains and the essential fatty acids (Omega 3 and Omega 6) inc. fish, nuts and seeds
5)Get active
6) Drink alcohol in moderation

If you’d like your homocysteine tested please contact me on 01323 737814.

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