Homocysteine and cardiovascular disease

Annu Rev Med. 1998:49:31-62. doi: 10.1146/annurev.med.49.1.31.


An elevated level of total homocysteine (tHcy) in blood, denoted hyperhomocysteinemia, is emerging as a prevalent and strong risk factor for atherosclerotic vascular disease in the coronary, cerebral, and peripheral vessels, and for arterial and venous thromboembolism. The basis for these conclusions is data from about 80 clinical and epidemiological studies including more than 10,000 patients. Elevated tHcy confers a graded risk with no threshold, is independent of but may enhance the effect of the conventional risk factors, and seems to be a particularly strong predictor of cardiovascular mortality. Hyperhomocysteinemia is attributed to commonly occurring genetic and acquired factors including deficiencies of folate and vitamin B12. Supplementation with B-vitamins, in particular with folic acid, is an efficient, safe, and inexpensive means to reduce an elevated tHcy level. Studies are now in progress to establish whether such therapy will reduce cardiovascular risk.

Publication types

  • Review

MeSH terms

  • Arteriosclerosis / etiology
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / etiology*
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / genetics
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / mortality
  • Cardiovascular Diseases / prevention & control
  • Coronary Artery Disease / etiology
  • Female
  • Folic Acid / therapeutic use
  • Folic Acid Deficiency / complications
  • Forecasting
  • Homocysteine / blood
  • Homocysteine / genetics
  • Homocysteine / physiology*
  • Humans
  • Intracranial Arteriosclerosis / etiology
  • Male
  • Peripheral Vascular Diseases / etiology
  • Prevalence
  • Risk Factors
  • Safety
  • Thromboembolism / etiology
  • Vitamin B 12 / therapeutic use
  • Vitamin B 12 Deficiency / complications


  • Homocysteine
  • Folic Acid
  • Vitamin B 12