What If You Could Predict a Heart Attack and Slash the Risk of Stroke?
Cardiovascular disease (CVD) is the leading cause of death in Australia and continues to generate a considerable burden on the population in terms of illness and disability.
In 2008, CVD was the underlying cause of 34% of all deaths in Australia and it is estimated that around 800,000 people with CVD experience disability.
Stroke is Australia’s second biggest killer after heart disease. The cost burden of stroke is estimated to be around $2.14 billion per year.
People with diabetes are also at an increased risk of developing coronary heart disease, stroke and peripheral vascular disease.
The number of heart, strokes and vascular diseases is expected to increase each year due to the ageing population unless something is done to reduce the incidence rate.
In numerous clinical studies, elevated levels of homocysteine show an increased risk for cardio vascular disease, venous thrombosis, and hardening of the arteries (atherosclerosis), which could eventually result in a heart attack and/or stroke.
What is Homocysteine?
Homocysteine is a chemical in the blood that is formed from an essential amino acid called methionine.
About 50% is re-methylated (recycled) to methionine. Methionine is a powerful antioxidant involved in the synthesis of other amino acids.
If there is a genetic error (called a mutation) in the MTHFR gene, homocysteine levels may not be regulated properly. As a result, homocysteine builds up in the bloodstream, and the amount of methionine is reduced.
The most common mutation in MTHFR is called C677T. Mutations in the MTHFR gene are only a determinate factor in hyperhomocysteinemia. The leading cause of hyperhomocysteinemia is folate deficiency.
Genetic mutations in MTHFR are the most commonly known inherited risk factor for elevated homocysteine levels. We all have 2 MTHFR genes, one inherited from each parent. Some people have a genetic mutation in one MTHFR gene (heterozygous) or both of their MTHFR genes (homozygous).
Three meta-analyses involving >25 000 cases have examined the impact on heart disease risk of this genetic variant and have shown an overall significantly higher (14–21%) risk of heart disease in individuals with MTHFR mutation
The complex metabolism of homocysteine within the body is highly dependent on vitamin derived cofactors, and deficiencies in vitamin B12, folic acid and vitamin B6 can cause elevated homocysteine levels (hyperhomocysteinaemia).
Health problems tend not to be related to whether someone has a MTHFR gene mutation or MTHFR enzyme deficiency, but whether the deficiency is leading to elevated levels of homocysteine.
Homocysteine concentration is influenced by:
- Age – plasma homocysteine increases with age, possibly due to renal impairment
- Gender – men have higher levels of homocysteine than women, most likely due to greater muscle mass
- Genetic factors – MTHFR mutation
- Poor lifestyle – smoking, high coffee and alcohol intake, and luck of exercise
- Prescription drugs- methotrexate and anti-epileptic drugs
- Dietary factors, including increased intake of animal proteins, alcohol use, coffee/tea consumption, decreased intake of folic acid, and vitamins B6 and B12.
Environmental toxins, such as carbon disulfide used in the manufacture of cellophane and pesticides, and as solvent for fats, resins, and rubber could be a possible reason for raised homocysteine levels too.
According to study, published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, the more coffee consumed, decaffeinated or regular, and especially unfiltered, the higher the levels of homocysteine.
Why Test Homocysteine Levels?
Genetic testing for the MTHFR mutation is available. To test for mutations in the MTHFR gene, you must take a DNA test.
An increasing number of studies have been published, showing homocysteine to be a predictor of potential health problems.
According to one, published in the British Medical Journal, homocysteine levels in blood plasma predict risk of death from cardiovascular disease in older people even better than any conventional measure of risk including cholesterol, blood pressure or smoking.
An elevated homocysteine level is associated with an increased risk for developing atherosclerosis, which can in turn lead to coronary artery disease (CAD), heart attack, and stroke.
There is also an increased risk of blood clotting which may lead to DVT (Deep venous thrombosis).
Women with high homocysteine levels find it harder to conceive and are at risk from repeated early miscarriage, placental abruption (where the placenta detaches from the uterus), pre-eclampsia (elevated blood pressure that can lead to dangerous consequences), and giving birth to a small, low-birth-weight baby.
Approximately 20% of women who have a child with a neural tube defect have abnormal homocysteine metabolism.
Elevated homocysteine is associated with Scizophrenia, Dementia and Alzheimer’s disease.
High homocysteine has also been linked to migraine, mood disorders, diabetes, obesity, osteoporosis and cancer.
Genetic Testing for MTHFR – Stop The Guesswork
Testing for the MTHFR gene is quick, easy and inexpensive. A simple cheek swab sample is all that is needed and it can be taken in the comfort of your own home. No blood test needed.
Knowing your genetic profile will also help to prevent chronic health conditions like cardiovascular disease, inflammatory conditions and obesity.
Emed provides the Best Natural Medicines, Health Products and Practitioner Strength Supplements, diet and lifestyle advice MATCHED to your DNA.
The Role of Vitamins
Most studies have shown that high homocysteine levels can be lowered by vitamin B supplementation.
Lowering homocysteine (via folate supplementation) reduces the risk of stroke by 18% overall and by 25% in those trials involving individuals with no previous history of stroke.
Folate (Vitamin B9) can be found in green leafy vegetables, asparagus, broccoli, yeast, lentils, beans, eggs, beef, organ meats, whole grains, and enriched cereals.
BioCeuticals Folinic Acid provides the ‘activated’ form of folic acid which is better absorbed and utilised within the body.
Vitamin B6 has been shown to prevent the toxic accumulation of homocysteine and is found in meat, poultry, fish, legumes, peanuts, walnuts, oats, brown rice, and whole wheat.
BioCeuticals Ultramuscleze P5P contains the ‘activated’ form of B6.
Vitamin B12 is found only in animal products and supplements. It is abundant in organ and muscle meats, fresh shrimp and oysters, fish, milk, eggs, and cheese – Vitamin B12 is not found in a vegan diet.
Processing foods (milling, canning, extraction of sugars and oils, bleaching agents, chemical additives) account for losses of B vitamins of ≥85%.
Highly processed foods should be minimized, because they are partially depleted of vitamin B6 and folic acid. Canned vegetables, fruit, meats, and seafood contain only one-half or less the vitamin B6 and folic acid that fresh foods do.
Foods containing sugar, white flour, or white rice are seriously depleted of vitamin B6 and folic acid.