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High Homocysteine Level: How it affects our Heart?
Have you ever heard of homocysteine? Has your doctor ever asked you to have a blood test to check for homocysteine level? Probably not. But I say with the confidence that, you must have wondered, why this is so.
Few people would have ever heard of it and still a few would believe that it is related to diseases like cholesterol and it causes heart-related illness.
According to this approximation, increase in level of homocysteine in the blood is the cause of heart attacks in about 15 percent of the people in the world today. It also means that homocysteine is directly responsible for approximately 225,000 heart attacks and 90 million heart related problems in the US every year. Needless to say, it is better to know about this dangerous element, specially when you know that you can correct its level by taking extra vitamin B capsules.
What is homocysteine?
Homocysteine is formed during the breakdown of the essential amino acid methionine. Methionine is found in large quantities in meat, eggs, milk, cheese, white flour, canned food and high-processed items.
We need methionine to survive, however, by looking at the long list of nutrients found in food, we can guess that, people have most of these elements. Our body normally converts homocysteine into either Cysteine or methionine again. High Homocysteine Level: How it affects our Heart?
Cysteine and methionine are harmless products.They do not harm in any way. It is worth noting here that homocysteine requires enzymes to break into cysteine or convert to methionine. Some important vitamins such as folic acid, vitamin B6 and vitamin B12 are required for action of this enzyme. If there is a deficiency of these nutrients in the body, then the amount of homocysteine in the blood starts increasing.
Homocysteine vs cholesterol
High Homocysteine Level: How it affects our Heart ?
An interesting incident took place in the late sixties and early 70s. There was a pathologist at that time whose name was Dr Kilmer McCully . He gave a theory related to homocysteine at that time. He is today considered as the “Pioneer of the homocysteine theory”.
But at that time it was not so. He was the first person who discovered that cholesterol and clogged arteries are the symptoms of heart disease. They are not the cause of heart problems. The Dr. Kilmer was way ahead of his time. Kilmer's vision clearly challenged future of cholesterol theory.
At that time this theory could not be proved completely, so he had to face a lot of trouble. In those days, the cholesterol heart attack theory was gaining tremendous momentum. The cholesterol theory was advancing at its full speed with all conflicting principles calming down.
Pharmaceutical companies were making billions of dollars. Everyone was convinced that the main cause of heart attack and heart problems was excess cholesterol in the blood stream.
Interest in homocysteine again
Again in the 1990s some doctors showed interest in Dr. Kilmer's homocysteine theory. In a major study conducted on some doctors, these people told that even a small level of homocysteine in the blood increases the risk of heart disease. People who have high homocysteine levels in their blood are three times more likely to have a heart attack than those with a normal homocysteine level.
This was the first large study in which homocysteine was found to be independently responsible for heart disease. In 1995, one study also suggested that high levels of homocysteine in the blood are directly responsible for the narrowing of the carotid artery (Carotid artery supplies blood to the brain).
Another important thing was told in this study that, in patients who have high levels of homocysteine, there is a deficiency of folic acid, vitamin B12 and vitamin B6 in their body. One more large study indicated that the higher the level of homocysteine, the greater the risk of heart attack. High Homocysteine Level: How it affects our Heart?
The level of homocysteine that was previously believed to be normal, now suddenly became dangerous. The results of these medical efforts and studies at least provide evidence that lowering the level of homocysteine in the body is better.
Despite this, some scientists were not convinced and said at that time that “ the danger of high levels of homocysteine has not been fully proven so far, but it can be an important topic of research in future.” Coincidentally, future clarified this doubt. Now today there is beyond doubt evidence that, homocysteine causes heart diseases.
Is there a high level of homocysteine?
Cholesterol is essential for the production of many cells and hormones in the body, but homocysteine does not benefit the body. The higher the level of homocysteine in the body, the higher the risk of cardiovascular disease.
Similarly its opposite is also true. The lower the homocysteine level, the better it is for body. No such level has been known yet, below which homocysteine can be considered safe. We should keep our homocysteine level as low as possible.
For most laboratories, homocysteine levels are considered to be normal between 5-15 micromoles/liter. However, the medical literature says that when this level exceeds 7 micromoles/liter, the risk of heart diseases increases greatly.
Most patients would like to keep their homocysteine level below 7. If our homocysteine level has reached above 12, then we are in serious trouble. Our irony is, whenever the medical community identifies a new threat, testing standards usually are forgotten. High Homocysteine Level: How it affects our Heart?
The same thing happened with cholesterol and the same thing will happen with homocysteine. So don't be too satisfied with doctor's advice that homocysteine levels between 10 or 11 are normal and nothing to worry about. If we do not have any heart related disease, even then we should not let the homocysteine level exceed 9. Also, if we are suffering from any kind of heart related disease or we are at risk of heart disease, then this level should be below 7.
How can I lower my homocysteine levels natually?
There are actually two sides to the problem of high levels of homocysteine. The first is the amount of methionine in the food, which the body has to break down through the process of metabolism. For this, we should be careful in the consumption of meat and milk products. High Homocysteine Level: How it affects our Heart?
Is not it interesting that, these foods are high in saturated fat and cholesterol? It is clear that we need to take more fruits, vegetables and proteins in place of these food items. Even though methionine is an essential amino acid, people still consume it in excessive amounts in food over time.
The other side of the coin is that we should consume adequate amounts of folic acid, vitamin B6, vitamin B12. Because of this, the well enzyme system works effectively to break down homocysteine. It is also interesting to know here that in all the researches in which increased homocysteine was described as harmful, in all of them, vitamin B groups was also found to be low.
When a patient's initial level of homocysteine becomes above 9, then vitamin B should be started giving them. Their blood levels should be checked continuously for 6 to 8 weeks. Vitamin B supplements reduce homocysteine levels by 15 to 75 percent.
Dr. Kilmer thoroughly knew about the dangers of homocysteine. They also knew that consuming vitamin B as an additional nutrient is cheaper as well as safe against these dangers. Today, people wonder, why most of the doctors avoid getting the homocysteine level checked in patients.
Why do they not recommend their patients to take vitamin B? Well, remember that the lower the level of homocysteine, the better it is for the body and heart. In the end, it would be fair to say that homocysteine is an important element and is more dangerous for heart disease than cholesterol.
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