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    The Homocysteine And Heart Disease Connection

    The Homocysteine And Heart Disease Connection

    The Homocysteine And Heart Disease Connection

    Learn more about SCL Health's Heart and Vascular Care

    Here’s a tongue twister for you: Hyperhomocysteinemia. Even us physicians will admit - it’s a mouthful. But it’s a mouthful you’re going to want to add to your heart health toolkit. Studies show that Hyperhomocysteinemia, or high levels of homocysteine, can increase your risk of heart disease. Of course, the more you know, the more you can do to protect yourself. Let’s dig in.

    What is Homocysteine?

    Homocysteine is a compound in your blood that helps build proteins. If you’re feeling fancy, you can call it an amino acid. Normally, your body will work its magic and use B vitamins to break down homocysteine into powerful substances that reduce inflammation and boost cell health.

    Should I Worry About High Homocysteine Levels?

    If your body doesn't have enough B vitamins to break down homocysteine, it could stick around in your blood, damaging the lining of your arteries and putting you at an increased risk of heart disease. Usually, people with too much homocysteine aren't getting enough folate, B6, or B12 in their diet. Thyroid problems, smoking, kidney disease, and genetics could also be the cause. “Studies have shown an association between elevated homocysteine levels and increased risk for cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease and peripheral vascular disease,” says Kirstin Hesterberg, DO, a general cardiologist with SCL Health Heart & Vascular Institute - Brighton. “However, routine testing is not recommended at this time."

    Keeping Your Levels Healthy

    Eating foods that are rich in folate and B12 can help lower your homocysteine levels. Try leafy greens, lentils, and fortified grains for folate; potatoes, bananas, and chickpeas for B-6; and beef, dairy products, and organ meats for B-12. If diet alone isn't keeping those levels in check, chat with your physician about starting a supplement or testing for other health conditions. “Unfortunately, studies have not shown that decreasing homocysteine levels lower the risk for atherosclerotic cardiovascular disease, including coronary artery disease” reports Dr. Hesterberg. “That being said, if you have a family history of cardiovascular disease, it's worth discussion with your provider or a cardiologist about further testing. This can help determine your risk for cardiovascular disease and what steps can be taken to lower it."