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Homocysteine – A Threat to the Heart

Homocysteine – A Threat to the Heart

If we thought that elevated levels of cholesterol were the only major risk factor in a heart disease, latest scientific research has yet another surprise in store for us. New research suggests that every person who has suffered a heart attack does not necessarily have high cholesterol. In recent years, homocysteine has started gaining prominence as a cause of heart disease.

What is Homocysteine

Homocysteine is an amino acid, which is harmless if it is properly metabolized by the body. However, if it isn’t, then this amino acid would build up in excessive quantities in the blood, which increases the risk of cardiovascular diseases such as heart attacks and strokes. Men with the highest levels of homocysteine have three times more risk of precipitating a heart attack. This is despite all other factors such as lipid profile, blood pressure, and smoking being under control. Scientific researchers generally believe that homocysteine increases the possibility of clot formation and promotes plaque formation, damaging the arteries.

Causes of homocysteine  

There is a generic factor that determines how efficiently our body metabolizes amino acid. However, the principle problem appears to be associated with our diet. Homocysteine levels in our blood tend to build up due to insufficient concentration of the three B-vitamins – folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin b12. Our body requires an adequate supply of the three vitamins to break down amino acids and utilize them properly. As we grow older, our body absorbs lesser quantities of B-vitamins and thus, homocysteine levels tend to rise. This increases the risk of heart attack. Moreover, smoking, lack of exercise, and high cholesterol play their part in increasing homocysteine levels. Our body needs to be constantly nourished with the three important B-vitamins to keep the homocysteine levels under check.

Vitamin B to douse homocysteine levels  

Taking those three vitamins is the first step. You need to take at least 200 mcg of folic acid daily to reduce homocysteine levels. To be absolutely sure that you are getting sufficient B-vitamins, take 2mg of B6 and 6mg of B12 as well. You will find these amounts in a typical B-vitamin Supplement. For most people, consuming at least 5-8 servings of fruits and vegetables daily should be sufficient to normalize homocysteine concentration.

Fruit servings for homocysteine

One serving is equal to half a cup of cooked vegetable or one cup of raw vegetable. One fruit serving is equal to one small apple, banana or orange or one cup of papaya or watermelon cubes or any large fruit. Whole pulses are also a rich source of folic acid. Fruits, vegetables and whole pulses also tend to be high in other nutrients and soluble fiber, and provide additional benefit over supplements. However, if your serum folate levels are very low and homocysteine levels very high it is wise to take both- fruits, vegetables and the B-vitamin supplements to completely eliminate the risk factor of an elevated homocysteine level.

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