Homocysteine is an amino acid produced by the body, usually as a by-product of consuming meat, fish or dairy. Elevated levels of homocysteine in the blood do not usually cause symptoms, but they raise the risk for heart disease, and other diseases.. The cause of high homocysteine levels is usually dietary deficiencies in vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folic acid. A key treatment to lower homocysteine levels is by proper nutrition.
A Homocysteine screening test is a simple and effective way to discover and reduce a number of potential health risks including infertility, heart health, Alzheimer’s dementia, stroke and DVT.
What is homocysteine?
Homocysteine is an amino acid. Amino acids are the building blocks of proteins. It is not possible to get homocysteine from the diet. It must be made from methionine, another amino acid that is found in meat, fish, and dairy products. Vitamins B6 (pyridoxine), B12 and folic acid are needed to make this reaction occur.
Foods containing methionine are transformed into homocysteine in the bloodstream. Homocysteine is converted in the body to cysteine, with vitamin B6 facilitating this reaction. Homocysteine can also be recycled back into methionine using vitamin B12-related enzymes.
Cysteine is an important protein in the body that has many roles. It is involved in the way proteins within cells are folded, maintain their shape, and link to each other. Cysteine is a source of sulfide and is part of the metabolism of different metals in the body including iron, zinc and copper. Cysteine also acts as an anti-oxidant.
If homocysteine cannot be converted into cysteine or returned to the methionine form, levels of homocysteine in the body increase. Elevated homocysteine levels have been associated with heart attack, stroke, blood clot formation, and perhaps the development of Alzheimer’s disease
Why is it important to monitor homocysteine levels?
Elevated levels of homocysteine are associated with heart attack, stroke, and blood. If a person develops any of these diseases and does not have increased risk factors such as smoking, high, high cholesterol, or diabetes, then the physician often looks for more unusual causes and risks, including checking homocysteine levels in the blood.
Homocystinuria is a rare, inherited disease in which affected persons have abnormally high levels of homocysteine due to abnormal metabolism of the amino acid methionine. This condition is associated with a number of different birth defects including abnormalities of the musculoskeletal system. In infants who have a family history of homocystinuria, early screening for elevated levels may help prevent future illnesses related to this metabolic defect. Moreover, infants and young children who have problems such as myopia (near-sightedness), changes in the lens of the eye, bone abnormalities, or unusual body shape may be screened for elevated homocysteine levels.
What are the possible symptoms and signs of elevated homocysteine levels?
Elevated homocysteine levels in the body do not cause any symptoms.
• Elevated homocysteine levels affect the interior lining of blood vessels in the body, increasing the risk of atherosclerosis or narrowing of blood vessels. This can result in early heart attack and stroke.
• There is a relationship between the levels of homocysteine in the body and the size of the carotid arteries that supply the brain with blood; the higher homocysteine level, the narrower or more stenosis the carotid artery.
• The risk of deep vein thrombosis and pulmonary may also be linked to elevated homocysteine levels in the body.
• There may be a relationship between elevated homocysteine levels and broken bones, especially in the elderly.
• Alzheimer’s disease and other types of dementia may be more frequently seen in patients with increased homocysteine in the blood.
• In infants who have the genetic condition homocystinuria, the inherited abnormalities affect the body’s metabolism of homocysteine to cysteine. This may result in dislocation of the lens in the eye, sunken chest, Marfan-type appearance (long thin body type), mental retardation, and seizures. Neonatal strokes may also be seen with high homocysteine levels.
• In pregnancy, homocysteine levels tend to decrease. Elevated homocysteine levels may be associated with some fetal abnormalities and with potential blood vessel problems in the placenta, causing abruption. There may also be an association with pre-eclampsia.
What is considered high homocysteine levels?
Most laboratories report normal homocysteine levels in the blood between 4 and 15 micromoles/litre. Any measurement above 15 is considered high. Optimal homocysteine levels are below 10-12
What causes elevated homocysteine levels?
Homocysteine levels increase in the body when the metabolism to cysteine of methionine to cysteine is impaired. This may be due to dietary deficiencies in vitamin B6, vitamin B12, and folic acid.
While alcoholics tend to be malnourished and lacking in B vitamins, alcohol itself may independently cause homocysteine levels in the blood to rise.
Can elevated homocysteine levels be hereditary?
Genetic abnormalities may affect the body’s ability to metabolize homocysteine in to cysteine, causing elevation of homocysteine levels in the blood and urine. Screening is often suggested in infants if there is a family history of this disease.
How can homocysteine levels be lowered?
The treatment for homocystinuria (elevated homocysteine levels in the urine) is through appropriate dietary changes with pyridoxine (vitamin B6), vitamin B12, and folic acid. The effects of vitamin treatment may be monitored by routine, scheduled blood tests.
Some patients do not respond to the vitamin supplementation and are considered pyridoxine-resistant. A diet low in methionine is recommended in addition to the B vitamins.
(To learn more about a Lowering Homocysteine Diet, Contact the clinic 085-2157974)
Who should have their homocysteine levels tested?
Infant’s blood and urine are often checked for elevated homocysteine levels if they have a family history of the disease, or if they have certain medical conditions including eye lens dislocations, unusual (Marfan type) body shape, mental retardation, or signs of stroke.
Younger adults who have an early heart attack, stroke, or blood clots are often screened for blood clotting abnormalities including homocysteine blood tests.
Homocysteine levels are also often measured when a patient suffers a heart attack or stroke and has no risk factors for that illness (smoking, high blood pressure, cholesterol, diabetes).
To contact the clinic phone 085-215 7479
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