High homocysteine levels are linked to increased risk of heart disease, memory loss and osteoporosis. Find out how to keep your H score ideal.

Homocysteine is measured in micromoles per litre, written as µmol/l. We used to think a ‘high’ level was above 15 units (µmol/l). This is what increases your risk of a heart attack and doubles your Alzheimer’s risk. Now, however, levels as low as 7 units are being linked to increased disease risk. Basically, there’s no official safe level and no guarantee that the diet and supplements you are currently taking are keeping homocysteine at bay. Up to 30% of people with a history of heart disease have a homocysteine level above 14 units. The average level in Britain is 10.5. However, experts believe that a level below 6 units is ideal. If you have any of the associated risk factors listed in the two checklists below, it’s especially important to get tested.

Since homocysteine does go up with age, if you are pursuing optimal health and aiming to minimise risk of developing any disease, including Alzheimer’s, my rule of thumb is to keep your ‘H’ score below your age, divided by ten. So, if you are 80, keep your level below 8. The H signs and symptoms – check yourself out.

If you have five or more of these symptoms, it’s almost a certainty that your homocysteine is moderate to very high (9 to 15, if not higher): Are you tired a lot of the time? Is your stamina, or ability to keep going, noticeably decreasing? Are you having a hard time keeping your weight stable? Do you often experience physical pain, be it arthritis, muscle aches or migraines? Do you get frequent colds? Is your eyesight deteriorating? Is your mental clarity or concentration decreasing? Are you experiencing more sleeping problems? Is your memory on the decline? Are you often depressed? Do you average two or more alcoholic beverages daily? Do you drink more than three cups of coffee daily? Do you smoke cigarettes? Are you a strict vegetarian? Do you eat red meat at least once a day? Has your first-degree family (mother, father, brothers or sisters) suffered from any of the following diseases?

Heart disease, especially before 50 years of age
• Strokes
• Alzheimer’s disease
• Abnormal blood clots
• Osteoporosis
• Cancer, especially myelomas
• Severe depression (especially women)
• Elevated homocysteine levels

How to reduce a high level of homocysteine

The current vogue in medicine is to recommend taking folic acid. Described in the British Medical Journal as ‘the leading contender for panacea of the 21st century’, folic acid alone is far less effective than the right nutrients in combination. The amount you need also depends on your current homocysteine level.

Case study

Lowering homocysteine ‘saved my life’ Chris K felt very unwell, with constant tiredness, worsening memory and concentration and little zest for life. He was depressed, had no sex drive and felt brain dead. His homocysteine score was 119. He changed his diet and took homocysteine-lowering nutrients and, within three months, his homocysteine level dropped to 19. After 6 months it had dropped to 11. He cannot believe how well he now feels. His memory and concentration are completely restored. He has boundless energy from 6am until 10pm He now exercises for an hour every day and has lost weight.

Keeping your homocysteine levels low?

  1. Eat less fatty meat, more fish and vegetable protein. Eat no more than four servings of lean meat a week; fish (not fried) at least three times a week; and if you’re not allergic or intolerant, a serving of a soya-based food, such as tofu, tempeh or soya sausages, plus beans, such as kidney beans, chickpea hummus or baked beans, at least five times a week.
  2. Eat your greens. Have at least five servings of fruit or vegetables a day. This means eating two pieces of fruit every single day, and three servings of vegetables. Vary your selections from day to day. Make sure half of what’s on your plate for each main meal is vegetables.
  3. Have a clove of garlic a day. Either eat a clove of garlic a day, or take a garlic supplement every day. You can take garlic oil capsules or powdered garlic supplements.
  4. Cut back on tea and coffee. Don’t drink more than one cup of caffeinated or decaffeinated coffee or two cups of tea, in a day. Instead choose from the wide variety of herbal teas and grain coffees available.
  5. Limit your alcohol. Limit your alcohol intake to no more than half a pint of beer, or one glass of red wine, in a day. Ideally, limit your intake to two pints of beer or four glasses of wine a week.
  6. Reduce your stress. If you are under a lot of stress, or find yourself reacting stressfully much of the time, make a decision to reduce your stress load by changing both the circumstances that are giving you stress and your attitude. Simple solutions abound: you can do yoga, meditation and/or exercise, or see a counsellor if you have some issues to resolve. These steps can make all the difference.
  7. Stop smoking. If you smoke, make a decision to stop, and seek help to do it. There is simply no safe level of smoking as far as homocysteine and your health is concerned. Smoking is nothing less than slow suicide. The sooner you stop the longer you’ll live. Refer to my How to Quit book for support if you need it.
  8. Supplement a high-strength multivitamin every day.

You can find more information in the publication H Factor Solution written by Patrick Holford