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.
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 an 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 breakdown 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.