What is homocysteine? Can it cause heart disease?

Researchers are calling homocysteine “the new cholesterol.” Homocysteine is a common amino acid (one of the building blocks that make up protein) found in the blood that may increase the risk of heart disease according to a study at Brigham and Women’s Hospital. Homocysteine is acquired mostly from eating meat. High levels of homocysteine are related to early development of heart disease and blood vessel disease. Those with higher levels of homocysteine had double the risk of heart disease. Folic acid (found in many vitamin and mineral supplements) safely and effectively reduces the level and the risk. Researchers are currently trying to figure out whether reducing high homocysteine levels will actually reduce the risk of heart attack and stroke.

How Does Homocysteine Increase Heart Disease Risk?

Doctors aren’t sure how homocysteine increases the risk of heart and blood vessel disease but there appears to be a link between high homocysteine levels and damage to the arteries, causing atherosclerosis (hardening of the arteries), and the formation of blood clots.