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Understanding a Blood Test for Homocysteine

written by: kristenrosenthal•edited by: Leigh A. Zaykoski•updated: 11/24/2009

Homocysteine is an amino acid found in all living things. Amino acids make up the proteins in our bodies, which then make up our tissues and organs. If homocysteine is found in excess in the blood, it can be a signal that something may be wrong. Learn about the blood test for homocysteine here.

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    Purpose of the Test

    A blood test for homocysteine levels is done to determine if you have higher than normal levels of homocysteine, which may indicate an increased risk for atherosclerosis, heart disease, strokes, and blood clots. In addition, this test can help highlight a vitamin B12 or folic acid deficiency and may also be a marker for Alzheimer's disease. There is also a rare inherited disease called homocystinuria that can be diagnosed through a blood test.

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    Test Procedure

    The procedure for a blood test for homocysteine levels is relatively simple. A healthcare practitioner will draw blood from your arm and send the blood sample to a lab to analyze the concentration of homocysteine in you blood. There are no serious risks involved with this test although you may feel slight discomfort during the blood draw and you may become light headed during or after the procedure. You may also experience some bruising at the site of the blood draw after the procedure is compete. Usually, no special preparations are needed before the test but you may want to inform your doctor of any medications you are taking, especially if they interfere with blood clotting.

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    Test Results

    The results for this blood test come in a read out of concentration of homocysteine and normal levels are in the range of 5 to 15 micromoles/liter where moles relate to the number of homocysteine molecules per liter of blood. A range of 15 to 30 micromoles/liter is considered a moderate level of homocysteine, 30 to 100 micromoles/liter is intermediate and concentrations over 100 micromoles/liter is considered very high. Your doctor will discuss any abnormal results with you to go over what they might mean and what you can do to help regulate the level of homocysteine in your blood.

    There are many things that can affect the outcome of a blood test for homocysteine including your age, sex, some medications, excessive coffee alcohol or tobacco use, and having some other illnesses such as kidney disease or some types of leukemia. Tell your doctor if you are taking any medications, herbal remedies, vitamins, or other supplements so that your test results can be accurately analyzed.

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    Related Tests

    Other blood tests for risks factors for heart disease include tests for c-reactive protein, fibrinogen, cholesterol, lipoprotein A, and natriuretic peptides.

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