This is a medical term that made news a few years ago, but we may not remember why. Homocysteine is bad for our health, but how? If you have too much in your blood it is a risk factor for cardiovascular disease. Where does it come from and how can I make it go away? This month I explain almost everything you need know about homocysteine.
Homocysteine is a semi-toxic byproduct produced when your body creates the amino acid methionine. It is known that high levels of homocysteine can increase a person’s risk of developing cardiovascular disease. There is also early evidence that suggests that it may be a risk factor for developing Alzheimer's disease. The next question you might be asking is, "Why would our body produce something so harmful?" Homocysteine is meant to be changed quite quickly into other harmless substances, but it is thought that certain nutrient deficiencies may delay this conversion. Your body requires a regular supply of folic acid, vitamin B6 and B12 to rid itself of homocysteine. Coincidentally, it has been found that people who have higher levels of homocysteine in their blood have lower levels of the three vitamins I just mentioned.
So why don't you just take these three vitamins and be done with it? Some people do; either on their own or under the advice of a Physician. The recommended dosages for the three vitamins will vary, but a good amount is 400–1,000 mcg of folic acid per day, 10–50 mg of vitamin B6 per day, and 50–300 mcg of vitamin B12 per day. I would recommend that you take a good multivitamin that has these ingredients in it. Check with your Heart Pharmacist to see which multivitamin may be right for you.
While it is true that taking folic acid, vitamins B12 and B6 will help to reduce homocysteine and thus your risk of heart disease, this does not mean that taking these vitamins makes you completely safe or that you can eat pizza and ride the couch all day. Homocysteine is only one of the many risk factors for heart disease. Other things that your can do to lower your risk of heart disease include; get regular exercise (30 minutes five times a week), reduce your intake of caffeinated and alcoholic beverages, and quit smoking. Diet is also important: eat more fruits and vegetables, reduce your intake of meat, and increase your intake of fish and soy products.
Stress reduction is also very helpful in reducing your risk of heart disease. Reducing the stress in your life need not involve quitting your job and practicing yoga on a mountaintop, but it would work very well. All you need to do it get some exercise and perform some other tasks that relaxes you. Some people like to garden, while others take long walks or read a book. Removing stress from your life can be hard. One of the easiest things to do is to avoid watching the news on TV. Many of the stories involve unhappy situations or disturbing images of war, famine, tragedy, and government overspending. Almost all of which does not directly affect us, but can still cause us a great deal of stress. It is hard for compassionate people, like us, to view these images and not feel some distress.
February is heart month and a good time to focus on your health. Get lots of rest, drink plenty of clean water and relax. Take some time to learn about the many ways to reduce your risk of cardiovascular disease. Your heart will thank you for it.