FRAMINGHAM, MASSACHUSETTS. Several studies have shown that advancing age, a heart attack, hypertension, diabetes, obesity, and cardiac valve disease are potent risk factors for the development of congestive heart failure (CHF). Researchers at the National Institutes of Health now add high blood levels of homocysteine (a sulfur-containing amino acid derived from the diet) as a risk factor for CHF.
Their study, part of the Framingham Heart Study, included 944 man and 1547 women between the ages of
60 and 95 years. None of the participants had suffered a prior heart attack. All participants had had their
level of homocysteine (non-fasting) checked at a complete medical examination carried out between 1979
and 1982 or between 1986 and 1990. The average (mean) homocysteine level was 12.0 micromol/L for
women and 13.0 micromol/L for men. After 8 years of follow-up 156 of the participants (88 women) had
developed CHF. The researchers found a clear correlation between the risk of CHF and homocysteine
levels. Female participants with a homocysteine level between 11.1 and 13.6 micromol/L had a 3 times
higher risk of CHF than did women with a level below 8.9 micromol/L. Men with a homocysteine level
between 11.8 and 14.4 micromol/L had a 50% higher risk than did men with a level below 9.5 micromol/L.
The researchers conclude that plasma homocysteine level independently predicts risk of CHF in adults who
have not suffered a prior heart attack.