Vitamin Deficiency Linked To Stroke And Plaque Buildup

At Functional Health and Acupuncture Institute in Cherry Hill, NJ, part of our mission is to educate people about health and nutrition to let them take control of their own health destiny.  Today I want to talk about the link between certain vitamins and cardiovascular disease.

Did you know that your nutrient status may have more to do with cardiovascular health than just looking at simple markers like cholesterol?

A study published in the Canadian Medical Association Journal revealed that people low in vitamin B12 had an increased risk of a fatal heart attack and stroke.The study focused on the relationship between homocysteine, B-12 and carotid artery plaque.

The study showed that higher blood levels of B vitamins are related to lower concentrations of homocysteine leading to decrease plaquing in the carotid arteries. However, an elevated blood homocysteine level revealed a strong risk factor for heart disease and stroke.

The study examined 421 people with the average age being 66. Vitamin B12, homocysteine levels and degree of plaque in the carotid arteries (via ultrasound) were evaluated.

Seventy-three patients (17%) had vitamin B12 deficiency with significant elevation of homocysteine. In addition and most important, carotid plaque was significantly larger among the group of patients who had deficiency of vitamin B12. In conclusion, the authors found that low blood vitamin B12 levels are a major cause of elevated homocysteine levels and increased carotid plaque area.

What is Homocysteine?

Homocysteine is an inflammatory chemical in the body that is normally converted to protective antioxidants but this process may not occur if there are low levels of certain B vitamins such as B12 and folate. This can occur due to dietary insufficiencies but may also occur if you have a genetic variation that causes difficulty making or processing these vitamins. It can also occur if you have poor digestion or low stomach acid, preventing absorption of B12 and other nutrients.

Testing for B12

Unfortunately blood tests are not very reliable for levels of B12. Better measures include using a urine test called a methyl malonic acid test. Blood homocysteine is a useful test and can be an indicator that you need folate or B12. The genetic MTHFR test can also reveal if you have trouble utilizing folic acid and may need supplementation.

One important takeaway from this is that homocysteine levels may be a better way to understand and estimate cardiovascular risk than just looking at cholesterol levels. If you would like to know more about this topic or how to get tested, feel free to call our office with any questions.

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