When Kilmer § MeOully, M.D., first proposed a link between levels of an amino acid nd heart disease in 1969, the medical community largely ignored him. But four decades and hundreds of studies later, that corununity is int linking high levels reased nsk of heart disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular

Homocysteine is formed when the body breaks down dietary protein, especially protein from animal sources. Then B vitarnins, particularly folate, Bs, and B,9, break down homocysteine so your cells can use it for energy.

But if this breakdown phase fails to ocecur—say, if you don’t get enough B vitamins— homocysteine builds up to an unhealthy level, It then damages endothelial cells, preventing the production of nitric oxide. It may also make blood cells stickier, encouraging clotting, which can eventually trigger a stroke or heart attack. In a study of 386 women at the University of Washington in Seattle, those with the most homocysteine in their blood had double the heart attack risk of those with the least. 

Study published in the journal Stroke found that high levels of homocysteine increased the risk of stroke fivefold.

Other research links high levels of hormo-heart attack risk of those cysteine to the development of dementia orwith the least. Alzheimer’s disease. In one study people the highest levels of homocysteine at the start of the study were nearly twice as likely to develop dementia.

In one study people with the most homocysteine in their blood had double the heart attack risk of those with the least.

Thankfully, the homocysteine problem is one of the easiest ones to solve. It’s generally as simple as getting more 5 vitamins. When researchers gave people who underwent angioplasty (a catheter procedure to open blocked blood vessels with a balloon) a combination of the three B vitamins, they found that not only were homocysteine levels lower, but the incidence of repeat blockages dropped, cutting the number of repeat angioplasties in half. And in a Harvard study of 80,000 nurses, those with the highest intake of folate (about 696 micrograms a day) cut their risk of developing heart disease nearly in half.

By the Numbers

Check with your doctor to find out whether a homocysteine test is appropriate for you; it may be worth taking if you have other known risk factors for heart disease. (See page 25 for more information on blood tests.)

Homocysteine level Heart disease risk
5-15 micromoles per liter Normal
>9 micromoles per liter Risk begins to rise

The Plans has all of the elements including a focus on nonanimal protein, plenty rich grains, beans, and vegetables, a daily multivitamin, and exercise ; show reduce homocysteine levels. The moderate levels of alcohol the Plan for most participants may also help. An Australian study of 350 n and women found that thase who drank six 8.5-ounce glasses of red wine eek had blood homocysteine concentrations 17 percent lower than those who in’t consume any alcohol, and 13 percent lower than those who reported primarily drinking beer or spirits

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