GOTEBORG, SWEDEN. A high homocysteine level is a well-known risk factor for coronary heart disease in men, but evidence of an association in women is less conclusive. A group of Swedish and Norwegian researchers now reports that a high homocysteine level is an independent risk factor for myocardial infarction (heart attack) in women as well. Their study involved 1368 women between the ages of 38 and 60 years when recruited into the study in 1968/69. The women were followed for 24 years during which time a total of 88 heart attacks occurred (0.3%/person-year) of which 42 were fatal. Homocysteine levels varied between 3.05 and 79.87 micromol/L with a mean of 11.79 micromol/L. The levels were found to increase with age and creatinine levels (impaired kidney function) and decrease with increasing levels of vitamin B12.
After adjusting for all known risk factors including age the researchers conclude that women with a total
homocysteine level of about 14.2 micromol/L have an 86% increased risk of experiencing a heart attack and
a 5-fold greater risk of dying from a heart attack than do women with lower homocysteine levels.