From Dr. Keith Currie, D.C.
Homocysteine: Most if not all of you would say, “What is homocysteine? I’ve never heard of it.” I’m here to tell you that it is really, really important. Soap box moment: As a Dr., I simply do not understand why it wouldn’t be included in every basic lab panel performed on patients when there is a blood draw. For me it is unacceptable to have something that is so important not being performed on every basic lab panel. I have looked at a lot (A LOT) of routine blood tests performed by other Drs., and until I received the first lab results that I ordered for my patients, I had NEVER seen homocysteine levels tested on any of those routine labs (It’s usually only tested after cardiovascular patients have had a stroke or heart attack in order to assess risk for another heart attack or stroke). Why is this a big deal?
Optimal levels of homocysteine should be between 5-8 umol/L for males and 4-7 umol/L for females. Clinical (traditional) lab values are 11 umol/L as the upper end of what is considered acceptable. The problem with that is that by the time it goes up to an 11, considerable damage has already been done to the body tissues (namely the arteries) by homocysteine.
I have been seeing a trend of elevated homocysteine levels with my patients in general on the labs. Homocysteine has been called the best single indicator of whether you are likely to live long or die young. It is a contributor to many diseases and also an indicator of many diseases. It is high or raised in some diseases such as autoimmune conditions, hypothyroidism, and genetic dysfunction. It also greatly contributes to the risk of heart attacks and strokes by causing damage to the inner lining of the arteries. High homocysteine levels in the blood plasma is both a risk factor and predictor of Alzheimer's Disease. It is linked to over 100 diseases in the scientific literature such as heart disease, cancer, strokes, advanced aging, genetic defects, autoimmune disorders, metabolic syndrome, diabetes and inflammation, etc…
Elevated homocysteine is also the most consistent predictor of cardio-vascular disease currently known. It was investigated in the 1960’s by Dr. Kilmer McCully and the children he observed with this condition due to genetic abnormalities suffered from accelerated atherosclerosis and premature aging, often dying of heart disease before the age of 10.
Homocysteine is an amino acid intermediate formed in the liver (I know, I keep talking about the liver). It is part of the methylation pathway (how genes are expressed) in the body and is often elevated when there are genetic variations affecting the methylation pathway. These abnormalities can have global body effects.
Studies have shown that women who have high homocysteine and cardiovascular disease are 4 times more likely to die from a stroke or heart attack than women who do not have high homocysteine. Another study showed that men and women who have high homocysteine are twice (2x) as likely to develop Alzheimer’s disease when compared to those with normal levels.
When homocysteine levels are high, it is critical that it be reduced immediately due to the vascular damage that is being caused. This is most important for the aging brain. Probably the strongest correlation with high homocysteine levels is cognitive and neurological impairment. Prevention is the key here. All age groups should be checked for homocysteine levels at least annually in attempts to thwart the vascular changes that cause brain and heart cell death created by high homocysteine levels. We have had great success in helping patients become healthier through nutrition and supplemenation.
Most Drs. will look at elevated homocysteine and put their patients on B12, B6, folate and other supplements to target and lower homocysteine levels. It is important to understand that the underlying cause of elevated homocysteine levels is not always a nutrient deficiency such as low B12, B6, folate, etc… Therefore, this is another example of why we should exhaust all efforts to find the cause of the elevated values instead of utilizing what I call “shotgun nutrition” or “bad medicine”.
I am proud to say I am including a homocysteine check on what I call my “Currie Panel a.k.a. the C-Panel”. I am offering my C-Panel to my patients for only $250.00. It consists of a full lab workup including:
A complete blood panel, ferritin and iron stores in the liver, lipid panel with cholesterol and triglycerides, homocysteine, blood glucose, kidney function tests, liver enzymes, a comprehensive thyroid panel (TSH, T4 Total, T4 Free, T3 Free, T3 Total, T3 Uptake, Thyroid Peroxidase antibodies, Thyroglobulin antibodies, and Reverse T3), C-Reactive Protein, Serum and Red Blood Cell Magnesium, and Vitamin D levels along with other invaluable information. Let Brooke know if you would like to have a C-Panel and she will help you.