Homocysteine is an amino acid that is made by the body. It is also in some foods. Amino acids are the building blocks for proteins. High levels of homocysteine in the blood have been linked to a higher risk of coronary artery disease, stroke, and peripheral vascular disease. A high level of homocysteine seems to cause problems in at least 3 ways. It may:
Things that may cause high levels of homocysteine are:
A healthy diet can lower homocysteine levels. Three nutrients can help keep homocysteine in check: folic acid, vitamin B6, and vitamin B12.
Experts do not agree on whether lowering homocysteine levels can lower your risk of heart attack and stroke. There is no direct proof that folic acid and B vitamins prevent heart attacks and strokes. If you are at high risk for heart disease, your healthcare provider can check your homocysteine level with a blood test. If your levels are high, your provider may advise you to be sure to get enough of these nutrients in your diet. However, other risk factors and your total diet play a role as well.