Amazing hope for anyone at risk for heart attack or stroke!
If you or a friend or relative have survived a heart attack or stroke, you know that life afterwards is forever changed. A victim of cardiovascular disease (CVD) lives in fear of when the next attack might strike. And if you haven’t been stricken yet, count your blessings—because in the United States alone, someone suffers a heart attack every 20 seconds, and a stroke every 53 seconds.
The pharmaceutical industry offers plenty of temporary fixes, including statin drugs for reducing cholesterol, aspirin for thinning the blood, and anti-hypertension medications for reducing blood pressure. Essentially, they all help prolong the life of a patient with CVD. But none of these drugs is without risk or side effects. And none of them fight the very cause of atherosclerosis—which results in dangerous artery-clogging plaque.
But now, based on clinical studies, there’s real hope that high levels of homocysteine—the new established risk factor for CVD—can be significantly reduced with vitamin B supplementation.2
What is homocysteine?
Homocysteine is a by-product of the amino acid methionine, which is naturally found in food and your body. If the right cofactors are present, it will eventually convert to cysteine and other beneficial compounds. If the cofactors are lacking, it will build up to toxic levels and generate free radicals that increase injury to arterial walls, and accelerate oxidation and the buildup of cholesterol in blood vessels … setting the stage for heart attack and stroke.3
How does homocysteine cause damage?
Homocysteine sets off a dangerous chain of events by irritating the inner lining of arteries and veins. Eventually, the inside of the arteries and veins become rough instead of smooth. As they become diseased, the inner arterial wall thickens and results in arteriosclerosis. Cells lining the artery proliferate and combine with protein and lipids in a mass called an atherosclerotic plaque. Plaques are typically the first sign of cardiovascular disease. With time, plaques gather cholesterol and fat, finally becoming atheromas. Atheromas distort the artery wall, allowing for calcification. When an atheroma blocks blood to the heart, it is referred to as a heart attack. When it blocks blood to the brain, it is a stroke.
In addition, it was recently reported that homocysteine interferes with the production of nitric oxide, a substance that impairs the blood vessels’ ability to dilate, or expand—which also contributes to risk of heart attack and stroke.3
Millions of dollars are spent annually on drugs designed to lower blood pressure by dilating blood vessels and reduce cholesterol. But there’s a better way!
The good news is that scientists have discovered Vitamins B6, B 12, and folic acid can dramatically lower homocysteine levels!
Most people with a high homocysteine level don’t get enough folic acid, vitamin B6 or B12 in their diet. Supplementing with these vitamins helps return the homocysteine level to normal.
In 1969, Kilmer S. McCully, M.D. of Harvard Medical School found that heart patients had nearly 80 percent less vitamin B6 than healthy individuals. As a result of his work, he postulated that B6 might help protect the arteries from the damage that precedes heart disease.5 In addition, a deficiency of vitamin B12 is associated with elevated homocysteine levels and folic acid is essential for the proper metabolism of homocysteine.67 It is estimated that by supplementing with only 400 mcg. of folic acid daily the number of heart attacks suffered by Americans each year would be reduced by 10%. It is also estimated that individuals with low vitamin B6 levels have a five times greater risk of having a heart attack than individuals with higher B6 levels!
More than 20 case-control and cross-sectional studies on more than 2,000 subjects have provided what Harvard epidemiologist Meir J. Stampfer, MD, calls “remarkably consistent” findings regarding the relationship between homocysteine levels and cardiovascular diseases. Specifically, patients with stroke and other cardiovascular diseases tend to have higher blood levels of homocysteine than subjects without disease. Stampfer points out that homocysteine levels do not have to be elevated by very much to increase risk, since most of the patients in these studies had levels that were within what is generally regarded to be the normal range.8
Decades after Kilmer’s breakthrough study, the data continues to pour in. One of the largest studies was reported in the 1992 report from the Physician’s Health Study. The study, which included 14, 916 male physicians, found that men whose homocysteine levels were in the highest five percent were three times more likely to have a heart attack over a five-year period than men with lower homocysteine levels!
Homocysteine contributes to cellular aging and Alzheimer’s disease
A recent study at the National Institute on Aging found that homocysteine does more than just damage the arterial wall. As a major consequence of folic acid deficiency—a particular problem with the elderly—elevated homocysteine impairs DNA repair and may have adverse effects on multiple organ systems during aging. Folic acid supplementation was found to help normalize homocysteine levels, and thereby help sustain health for a longer period of time. 9
People with elevated levels of homocysteine had nearly double the risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease, according to a new report from scientists at Boston University. The findings, in a group of people participating in the long-running Framingham Study, are the first to tie homocysteine levels measured several years before with later diagnosis of Alzheimer’s and other dementias. The report, which appeared in the February 14, 2002, issue of The New England Journal of Medicine, provides some of the most compelling evidence yet of an association between high plasma homocysteine and eventual significant memory loss.
Another report published this summer reiterates the finding that a high level homocysteine in blood serum and spinal fluid have consistently been found in individuals who suffer from Alzheimer’s disease.10
Homocysteine is a clearly established risk factor for heart disease and stroke. But you can do something about it, and you can do it easily and quickly!
To learn more about how you can prevent heart disease and stroke, click below to read “Cardio Companions: 12 Powerful Nutrients for Cardiovascular Health.” To learn how you can increase circulation and reverse atherosclerosis—click on “EDTA Chelation.”