Homocysteine Test & Heart Disease

Homocysteine is a type of amino acid, a chemical your body uses to make proteins. Normally, vitamin B12, vitamin B6, and folic acid break down homocysteine and change it into other substances your body needs. There should be very little homocysteine left in the bloodstream. If you have high levels of homocysteine in your blood, it may be a sign of a vitamin deficiency, heart disease, or a rare inherited disorder.

You may need this test if you have symptoms of a vitamin B or folic acid deficiency. These include:

  • Dizziness
  • Weakness
  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Sore tongue and mouth
  • Tingling in the hands, feet, arms, and/or legs (in vitamin B12 deficiency)

You may also need this test if you are at high risk for heart disease because of prior heart problems or a family history of heart disease. Excess levels of homocysteine can build up in the arteries, which may increase your risk of blood clots, heart attack, and stroke.

Result of high homocysteine levels may mean:

  • You are not getting enough vitamin B12, B6, or folic acid in your diet.
  • You are at a higher risk of heart disease.
  • Homocystinuria. If high levels of homocysteine are found, more testing will be needed to rule out or confirm a diagnosis.

Abnormal homocysteine levels don’t necessarily mean you have a medical condition needing treatment. Other factors can affect your results, including:

  • Your age. Homocysteine levels can get higher as you get older.
  • Your gender. Men usually have higher homocysteine levels than women.
  • Alcohol use
  • Smoking
  • Use of vitamin B supplements

There’s no universal recommendation for checking homocysteine levels. The test is still relatively expensive, it isn’t widely available, and insurance rarely covers it.

* The Content is not intended to be a substitute for professional medical advice, diagnosis, or treatment. Always seek the advice of your physician or other qualified health provider with any questions you may have regarding a medical condition.