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What Are the Effects of Elevated Homocysteine?

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  • Written By: Meshell Powell
  • Edited By: Melissa Wiley
  • Last Modified Date: 07 November 2016
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Elevated homocysteine levels may increase risk factors for several medical conditions, although it is not clear whether these elevated homocysteine levels actually cause these conditions or if it is merely a marker indicating a genetic predisposition. Heart disease, high blood pressure, and high cholesterol levels are among the potential effects of elevated homocysteine levels. Patients with high levels of homocysteine may also be at an increased risk of developing hypothyroidism, Alzheimer's disease, and osteoporosis.

Research has indicated that risk factors for heart disease and other cardiac issues are increased in those with elevated homocysteine levels. Some studies suggest that women may be at a higher risk of developing these effects. High blood pressure and elevated cholesterol levels are among these potential effects. Additional cardiac-related effects may include a higher risk for developing blood clots or experiencing a stroke.

Atherosclerosis is a medical term for the narrowing and hardening of the arteries. This occurs due to the gradual buildup of cholesterol and other substances within the blood. Elevated homocysteine levels have been shown to be associated with this condition in many cases. As the arteries become narrow, proper blood flow throughout the body is compromised, placing an added strain on the heart.

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High homocysteine levels may increase the chances of developing blood clotting disorders. As blood clots develop inside the arteries, blood flow can become seriously compromised, leading to oxygen and nutrient deprivation throughout the body. This in turn can greatly increase the risks of developing potentially life-threatening complications such as stroke or heart attack.

Alzheimer's disease and dementia risks are believed to be higher in those with elevated homocysteine levels. Osteoporosis and bone fracture risks may also be elevated in these patients. Some research has suggested that high homocysteine levels may begin in the embryonic stage of development, possibly predisposing the developing baby to certain health conditions, including mental retardation.

Fortunately, there are usually no symptoms of elevated homocysteine unless one of the associated diseases or medical conditions develop. This condition can be detected through simple blood tests and can almost always be treated easily with vitamin supplements such as vitamins B-6, B-12, and folic acid. Dietary changes or lifestyle modification may be suggested for some patients, in addition to nutritional supplementation. Any questions or concerns about higher than normal homocysteine levels or the available methods of treatment should be discussed with a doctor or other medical professional.

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