Homocysteine is necessary for the proper functioning of the organism, however, its excess causes hyperhomocysteinemia, a disorder which is conducive to atherosclerotic changes. Homocysteine level may be increased, i.a. by an unhealthy lifestyle.

What is homocysteine?

Homocysteine (Hcy) is a sulfuric amino acid, which appears in the human organism by eating protein. The excess of homocysteine is harmful, leads to the development of atherosclerotic and thrombotic changes, therefore it increases the risk of heart attack. Excessively high concentration of homocysteine in blood is called hyperhomocysteinemia.

Homocysteine: tests and norms

Homocysteine level is measured in blood tests. The blood of a patient needs to be collected on an empty stomach. The concentration of homocysteine between 5-15 µmol/l is considered a norm, however, a totally safe value is less than 10 µmol/l. The level which is higher than 15 is already considered hyperhomocysteinemia. The value higher than 100 µmol/l means serious hyperhomocysteinemia. The concentration of Hcy rises along with age. It is also higher in pregnant women.

Homocysteine: reasons for test

Homocysteine tests are carried our primarily among:

  • alcoholics,
  • drug addicts,
  • young people after heart attack or stroke,
  • people with genetic risk of cardiovascular diseases,
  • elderly people,
  • undernourished people,
  • infants, among whom homocystinuria is suspected.

Hyperhomocysteinemia: causes

The causes of hyperhomocysteinemia may be primary and secondary. Primary causes are genetically conditioned, consist in gene mutations. Secondary causes of hyperhomocystenemia are:

  • improper diet – deficient in vitamin B12, B6 and folic acid,
  • chronic kidney failure,
  • hypothyroidism,
  • ovarian cancer,
  • breast cancer,
  • lymphoblastic leukemia,
  • Addison’s anemia (vitamin B12 deficiency anemia),
  • psoriasis,
  • transplant (related to folic acid and vitamin B6 deficiency),
  • diabetes type 1 and 2,
  • smoking,
  • alcoholism,
  • drinking a lot of caffeine,
  • certain drugs containing such substances as phenytoin, carbamazepine, methotrexate or theophylline.

Hyperhomocystenemia: treatment

People with hyperhomocysteinemia are recommended to supplement vitamin B6, B12, folic acid and TMG. It should cause the drop of homocysteine, however, it does not always bring the desired effects. Apart from the supplementation, it is also worth following a diet rich in the above mentioned compounds.
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