Why test for homocysteine?
Homocysteine level is both a warning sign and can indicate a disease in and of itself. Researchers suspect that homocysteine in the body contributes to the development of diseases such as high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis.
The good news, however, is that in many cases you can lower your homocysteine levels again. This depends on the cause behind the increased values. For example, this could be lack of B vitamins and certain diseases or medications.
Who should take the test?
Homocysteine tests can be particularly interesting for people who already have an increased risk of cardiovascular disease, for example due to a genetic predisposition or previous illnesses. It also makes sense for people who already suffer from diseases such as cancer, osteoporosis, irritable bowel syndrome, or cardiovascular diseases.
If you belong to this group, you can identify another risk factor through an elevated homocysteine level and possibly take countermeasures.
A homocysteine test can also be useful for pregnant women. Because during pregnancy the need for B vitamins increases sharply, a lack of these vitamins can also lead to increased homocysteine levels.
How does the test work?
For the homocysteine test, you take a small sample of blood from your fingertip with a lancet. Only a few drops of blood are needed for this. You put the drops on two dry blood cards – so you really only have to take very little blood and the sample can be kept for a long time.
The sample will be sent free of charge to a medical laboratory in a return envelope. The laboratory analyses how high the concentration of homocysteine is and whether it is in the reference range or above. After evaluation, you will receive a notification and can access the result report via the online customer area or the my cerascreen® app.
What does the result report tell me?
The result report of the test tells you what homocysteine level was measured in your blood. Homocysteine levels are measured in units of micromoles per liter (μmol/L). You will also find out whether your test result – compared to reference values – is normal, slightly elevated, elevated, or extremely elevated.
What recommendations do I receive?
The most important recommendation for elevated homocysteine levels is: Find the cause! You can only take effective countermeasures if you find out what is causing the elevated values. A common cause is deficiency in vitamins B6, B9, and B12. In the results report, you will receive tips on how to correct these deficiencies with a change in diet or with supplements.
It is best to have a doctor examine you as well – your doctors can take into account your individual requirements, your history and your symptoms, and underlying diseases. Causes include chronic kidney disease, genetic disorders, and an underactive thyroid.
What does the homocysteine level tell you?
Homocysteine is an amino acid that occurs naturally in the human body. Different from essential amino acids, we do not have to supply homocysteine through food. It is a metabolite that is created when other amino acids are broken down and that the body uses to build new proteins, among other things.
However, slightly elevated homocysteine levels in the blood can be problematic. Too much homocysteine can damage blood vessels and increases the risk of high blood pressure and arteriosclerosis, among other things. Medicine even has its own term for elevated homocysteine levels: Homocysteine anemia.
Which vitamins are related to homocysteine?
Deficiencies in three B vitamins may be related to elevated homocysteine levels:
- Vitamin B6 found in meat, fish, vegetables, nuts, and whole grains.
- Vitamin B9 (folate), which is mainly found in green leafy vegetables, fruit, whole grain products, and nuts. The artificially produced variant of vitamin B9 is called folic acid and is recommended for pregnant women, among other things.
- Vitamin B12, which people have to get from animal products, therefore vegetarians and vegans often lack it. People who are vegan must take the vitamin through supplements.
If your homocysteine level has been determined to be too high, it may be worth examining your supply of these three vitamins as well.
How can I lower my homocysteine level?
How you can lower your homocysteine level is very individual. It mainly depends on the cause of the elevated level.
If the homocysteine level has risen due to a vitamin B deficiency, for example, it will usually fall again once the deficiency has been corrected. Quitting smoking also helps: Smoking contributes to vitamin B deficiency.
In other cases, it may be necessary to seek medical attention for conditions such as kidney disease or an underactive thyroid. Medications can also increase homocysteine levels. If you take medication consistently, talk to your doctor about whether the medication might affect your homocysteine. Sometimes it can make sense to switch to a different active ingredient.
What does high homocysteine level mean during pregnancy?
It is also a good idea for women who want to have children to test their homocysteine levels. Pregnant women whose homocysteine levels are too high have an increased risk of complications during pregnancy. In addition, the need for vitamin B12, B9, and B6 is significantly increased during pregnancy and breastfeeding. For pregnant women, it can therefore be particularly worthwhile to pay attention to the homocysteine level.
In general, it is recommended for pregnant women to take folic acid to meet their increased need for vitamin B9. This not only counteracts an elevated homocysteine level, but also counteracts malformations in the unborn child. This is already recommended while trying to get pregnant, since the need for folate increases right at the beginning of pregnancy.
For whom is the test not suitable?
The homocysteine test is not or only partially suitable for certain groups of people:
- People with infectious diseases such as hepatitis and HIV must not take the homocysteine test.
- People with hemophilia should not take the homocysteine test.
- The homocysteine test is not suitable for children under the age of 18.
The test is not intended to diagnose diseases. For example, if you suffer from severe pain or signs of paralysis, seek medical advice.