Women die of heart attacks far later than men do because they have higher levels of the female hormone, estrogen, but until recently, doctors didn't have the foggiest idea how estrogen prevents heart attacks.

Two recent studies show that estrogen prevents heart attacks by lowering blood levels of homocysteine, an amino acid that punches holes in arteries and causes plaques to form. Homocysteine accumulates in arteries when a woman does not get adequate amounts of three vitamins, folic acid and pyridoxine, found in leafy green vegetables and whole grains, and B12, found in meat, poultry, seafood, dairy products and eggs. The studies also show that estrogen does not prevent further heart attacks in women who have already had at least one heart attack, even when it lowers blood levels of the bad LDL cholesterol and raises blood levels of the good HDL cholesterol that prevents heart attacks. If homocysteine is above 100, take folic acid, pyridoxine and B12 (readily available in combination pills such as Foltex or Fol-B.)

This report has been updated with #1320.

Estrogen and homocysteine. Cardiovascular Research, 2002, Vol 53, Iss 3, Sp. Iss. SI, pp 577-588. KR Dimitrova, K DeGroot, AK Myers, YD Kim. Kim YD, Georgetown Univ, Med Ctr, Dept Anesthesia, 3800 Reservoir Rd NW, Washington,DC 20007 USA

Checked 9/3/05

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