What if I told you that there’s a single, simple test that can reveal your risks of half a dozen of the biggest threats to your health…and, in turn, allow you to take action to reverse them?
Sounds too good to be true, I know. But guess what? Such a text exists, and you can get it from any lab. Unfortunately, most doctors don’t even mention it. Why not? It all comes down to money, of course.
This one test does something that absolutely terrifies mainstream medicine. It puts you in control of many different aspects of your health—all without drugs.
You see, if your results put you in the danger zone, you can get them back in check quickly and easily with a vitamin—and a cheap vitamin, at that. So why would the medical establishment pay attention to this particular health marker when they don’t have an expensive medicine to dole out for it?
But I believe this information is a critical piece of the puzzle in terms of getting—and staying—healthy. In fact, this is one of the very first tests I order for every patient who walks into my office.
Of course, I’m talking about homocysteine. And if you’ve heard of it at all before now, it was probably in reference to heart health. It’s true that homocysteine is an indicator of heart attack and stroke risk.
But high homocysteine levels tell us so much more than that. They can give you a glimpse into how your brain, eyes, bones, stomach, and mood are faring as well.
So today, I’m going to tell you why it’s critically important that you get yours tested immediately—and how to take care of it if it’s high.
The hidden dangers of high homocysteine
Since 1990, literally thousands of scientific studies have appeared in the National Library of Medicine calling homocysteine what it is: a major risk factor for countless diseases. The following are just a few of the most noteworthy.
As I mentioned above, when most people think of homocysteine—if they’ve even heard of it— the first thing that comes to mind is heart disease. And with good reason. High homocysteine levels are closely linked to cardiovascular disease.
One study found that men with premature coronary artery disease had significantly higher homocysteine levels than men without it. A later study piggybacked on that research and found even more detailed evidence of homocysteine’s heart health connection.
In people who developed cardiovascular disease before age 55, elevated homocysteine was evident in 42% of those with cerebrovascular disease, 30% of those with coronary vascular disease, and 28% of those with peripheral vascular disease—but not in any of the healthy control subjects.
Bottom line: Elevated homocysteine put people at three times greater risk of cardiovascular disease compared to healthy individuals.
When it comes to stroke specifically, elevated homocysteine levels have been shown to be independently associated with every type of stroke (ischemic, hemorrhagic, and embolic).
And if high homocysteine is associated with stroke, it stands to reason that it is also associated with an increased risk of blood clots. In fact, one study found high homocysteine levels put people at twice the risk of developing dangerous deep vein thrombosis, which is brought on by clots.
High homocysteine levels have been clearly established as a risk factor in all sorts of cardiovascular events. But, they’re also implicated in a whole host of other illnesses…
High homocysteine levels have been linked to at least two types of cancer in women: colorectal cancer and cervical cancer.
In one study, women with high homocysteine had a startling 70% higher risk of developing colorectal cancer than those with the lowest homocysteine levels.
In terms of cervical cancer, two studies deserve special mention. In the first, researchers found that women who had a specific precursor to cervical cancer also had higher levels of homocysteine. In addition, elevated homocysteine levels increased the cervical cancer risk associated with other known risk factors—smoking, multiple previous births, and human papillomavirus infection.
The second study looked specifically at invasive cervical cancer and found that women with elevated homocysteine were two to three times as likely to develop it as people with low levels.
Lately I’ve been talking a lot about the association between homocysteine and brain health. Research continues to emerge clarifying the link between the two, but I want to take a few minutes to highlight some of the most interesting studies I’ve come across.
In one of them, researchers followed healthy older adults for five years. They found that higher homocysteine levels were associated with poorer cognitive function and faster cognitive decline during that time period.
Another one, published in the prestigious New England Journal of Medicine, found that homocysteine levels above 14 μmol/L almost doubled a person’s risk of developing Alzheimer’s disease.
What’s more, the researchers noted that high homocysteine levels correlate with the progression and severity of the disease. High levels may, in fact, serve as an early warning that dementia and Alzheimer’s are just around the corner.
And even when it’s not full-fledged dementia or Alzheimer’s disease, high homocysteine is linked to premature aging of the brain. In fact, one study found that rising homocysteine levels looked the same as more than 4 years of cognitive decline on brain performance tests.
Cognitive function is one of the most important reasons to know your homocysteine levels—and to get them in check.
Even eye health appears to be affected by homocysteine levels.
Scientists have found that high homocysteine levels—particularly above 12 μmol/L—increase risk of age-related macular degeneration (AMD).
A quick refresher: AMD is a devastating illness caused by damage to the cells in the central retina. This leads to a loss of sharpness of vision and, in some cases, blindness.
AMD is the most common cause of visual impairment and blindness in industrialized countries. Yet mainstream medicine has nothing to offer for it.
In fact, nutrients are the only thing that can help AMD—including the ones for controlling homocysteine, which I’ll tell you about in just a moment.
If you watch any TV you’ll notice the barrage of commercials for bone medications. And they’re all geared towards women. But the fact is, men are just as vulnerable to osteoporosis. And homocysteine increases the osteoporosis risk in both sexes.
In fact, high homocysteine levels double women’s risk of osteoporotic bone fractures. And they quadruple men’s.
Researchers believe homocysteine takes a toll on bone mineral density (BMD). For instance, in one study, risk of low BMD was 95% higher in women with homocysteine levels above 15 μmol/L than in those with levels below 9 μmol/L.
Even before birth, homocysteine affects health. When mothers have abnormal homocysteine levels, their babies run the risk of neural tube defects, premature birth, low birthweight, and even stillbirth. Which cements high homocysteine levels as a risk for people of all ages.
High homocysteine’s deadly toll
In addition to all these health concerns, high homocysteine levels may predispose you to inflammatory bowel disease, depression, bipolar disorder, and even schizophrenia.
And, unfortunately, elevated homocysteine isn’t just linked to disease, it’s also linked to death.
Research has found that every 5-μmol/L increase in homocysteine ups cancer mortality by 26% and cardiovascular mortality by 50%. Even more shocking: High homocysteine skyrockets other mortality (not due to cancer or cardiovascular disease) by 104%.
Keeping tabs on your homocysteine levels literally means the difference between life and death.
Why you should get tested NOW
There’s just one more thing you need to know about high homocysteine: It’s a silent killer.
There are no symptoms.
Not a single patient in my entire career has ever come in telling me they thought they had a problem with their homocysteine. But given the laundry list of illnesses associated with it, I test everyone who walks in my door.
And there’s no reason not to. After all, we’re not talking about some expensive or invasive test. It’s a simple blood test offered by every major lab. Just ask your doctor to order it for you. And if, for some reason, your doctor refuses, take your health into your own hands and order it yourself.
There’s a company called Direct Labs that allows you to be tested without your doctor’s orders. Just visit their website at www.DirectLabs.com/OVH1. Or call 800-908-0000 and reference account code: R-OVH.
Now, are you ready for the first truly good news of this article?
The cheap, easy solution for keeping homocysteine in check
Even if your levels are high, homocysteine is incredibly easy (and cheap) to get under control. And you don’t need a long list of medications to manage it.
You just need to take the right amounts of a few easy-to-find vitamins: B6, B12 and folic acid.
There’s one important thing to keep in mind when you’re dealing with B vitamins, though. Some people have a genetic mutation called MHTFR. A simple blood test will tell you if you fall into this camp. And if you do, it means you won’t be able to metabolize regular B vitamins properly.
But don’t panic. If you have MHTFR, you simply need to take the methylated forms of these vitamins, such as methylcobalamin (methylated B12). These are higher quality supplements anyway—and luckily, they’re also readily available.
Your life-saving, anti-homocysteine action plan
So here’s your action plan for finding out once and for all what your health risks are, and getting a handle on them: Ask your doctor to test your homocysteine level; your B6, B12, and folic acid levels; and whether you have the MTHFR mutation.
You want your B6, B12, and folic acid levels to all be at the upper limits of normal. (B12 and folic acid can even be above the normal range, but B6 can be dangerous if it is too high.)
As for homocysteine, this test has a broad range—from 4 to 15 in most labs. The optimal number, and the one I shoot for with my patients, is 8. The studies all show that this is the peak efficient number. Lowering it more than that isn’t necessary.
Seeing where your levels are will give you a good place to start your B-vitamin supplement regimen.
And one more thing: Research has shown that omega-3 fatty acids can also lower homocysteine. This is conclusion of a paper that appeared recently in the journal Nutrition Research.
Even better: The researchers found that combining omega-3s with B-vitamins—including those I just recommended—can amplify the homocysteine-lowering effect.
As for dosages, here’s what I typically recommend:
- B6: 100 mg per day
- B12: 2,000 mcg per day
- Folic acid: 20 mg per day (yes, that is a very big dose, but necessary)
- Fish oils: 1,500 mg twice per day of EPA/DHA
It’s a shame that doctors resist doing tests that offer such valuable insight into your health. And even worse, that they ignore the simple, natural approaches that can make such a big difference.
But just because the wheels of change turn slowly doesn’t mean you have to wait. This is simply one more instance where you need to be your own health advocate.
The homocysteine test is widely available. If your doctor has never ordered one for you, ask for it. And if he or she refuses, order one yourself.
It may be a bit more work, but considering the results may very well save your life, I’d say it’s an investment well worth making.
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