Purpose: An elevated plasma homocysteine level is an established risk factor for atherosclerotic coronary heart disease (CHD), cerebrovascular disease (CVD), and lower extremity occlusive disease (LED). An elevated plasma homocysteine level can be reduced by therapy with folate and vitamins B6 and B12. An accurate evaluation of the role of vitamin therapy requires knowledge of the influence of plasma homocysteine levels on the progression of CHD, CVD, and LED. Methods: The Homocysteine and Progression of Atherosclerosis Study is a blinded prospective study of the influence of homocysteine and of other atherosclerotic risk factors on the progression of disease in patients with symptomatic CVD, LED, or both. This study is set in a university hospital vascular surgery clinic and the General Clinical Research Center. Consecutive patients with stable symptomatic CVD or LED underwent baseline clinical, laboratory, and vascular laboratory testing for homocysteine and other risk factors and were examined every 6 months. The primary endpoints were ankle brachial pressure index, duplex scan-determined carotid stenosis, and death. The secondary endpoints were the clinical progressions of CHD, LED, and CVD. The hypothesis that was tested was whether the progression of symptomatic CVD or LED was more frequent or more rapid in patients with elevated plasma homocysteine levels. Results: After a mean follow-up period of 37 months (range, 1 to 78 months) for deaths from all causes (>14 μmol/L; elevated, 18.6%; normal, 9.4%; P = .022), deaths from cardiovascular disease (elevated, 12.5%; normal, 6.3%; P = .05) and the clinical progression of CHD (highest 20% of homocysteine levels, 80%; lowest 20% of homocysteine levels, 39%; P = .007) were significantly more frequent or more rapid by life-table analysis when the homocysteine levels were elevated. Multivariate Cox proportional hazards regression model showed a significant independent and increasing relationship between the plasma homocysteine levels and the time to death (relative risk for highest one third of homocysteine values, 1.6; 95% confidence interval [CI], 1.04 to 2.56; P = .029; and relative risk for highest one fifth of homocysteine values, 3.13; 95% CI, 1.69 to 6.64; P = .0001). After an adjustment for age, smoking, hypertension, diabetes, cholesterol, and the vascular laboratory progression of CVD or LED, each 1.0 μmol/L increase in the plasma homocysteine levels resulted in a 3.6% increase (95% CI, 0.0% to 6.6%; P = .06) in the risk of death (all causes) at 3 years and a 5.6% increase (95% CI, 2.2% to 8.5%; P = .003) in the risk of death from cardiovascular disease. Conclusion: We conclude that elevated plasma homocysteine levels are associated significantly with death, with death from cardiovascular disease, and with the progression of CHD in patients with symptomatic CVD or LED. These results strongly mandate clinical trials of homocysteine-lowering vitamin therapy in such patients.
ASJC Scopus subject areas
- Cardiology and Cardiovascular Medicine