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Folic Acid Supplements May Help Cut Down Stroke Risk

By Kai Wade - Director of Communications & Social Media | March 17th, 2015

Folate deficiency and preeminent concentrations of homocysteine in the blood are associated with increased risk of cardiovascular disease. Severe deficiency of either folate or vitamin B12 can lead to megaloblastic anemia, which causes fatigue, weakness, and shortness of breath.

New research indicates folic acid supplements may be helpful in reducing the risk of strokes, particularly for patients affected by high blood pressure.

“If all that is required to prevent the greatest health threat worldwide is a vitamin, then we need to consider checking patients’ blood levels of folic acid and supplementing if needed,” stated Dr. Suzanne Steinbaum, preventive cardiologist at Lenox Hill Hospital.

What is Folic Acid?

Folic acid is a form of the water-soluble vitamin B9. Folic acid is a significant factor in the creation (synthesis) of nucleic acid, one of a family of large molecules including DNA (deoxyribonucleic acid) and RNA (ribonucleic acid).

According to the British Dietetic Association, folic acid is crucial for several bodily functions, including:

  • Synthesize DNA, RNA and repair
  • Assisting rapid cell division and growth
  • Producing healthy red blood cells
  • Vital for pregnant women to prevent major birth defects of her baby's brain or spine (neural tube defects, including spina bifida and anencephaly)
  • Enhances brain health. Dutch researchers reported that folic acid supplementation may improve memory.

Folic Acid Chinese Study

Led by Dr. Yong Huo from the Peking University First Hospital, Beijing, a research team tracked the outcomes for more than 20,000 patients in China who were affected by high blood pressure, but did not have any prior history of a heart attack or stroke. The results were simultaneously published in the Journal of the American Medical Association.

Participants were randomly assigned to take a daily pill of folic acid along with the high blood pressure pill, while some participants were asked to consume only the high blood pressure drug.

The results —  

  • The first strokes that occurred in the group were 3.4 percent of those who just took the high blood pressure drug.
  • The risk of stroke was up to 21 percent lower in those who took a combination of both the high blood pressure drug and the folic acid supplement.
  • Patients who used this combination had a much lower risk of being affected by ischemic stroke, which usually occur due to blockages, and make up for 87 percent of all strokes.
  • Folic acid supplementation was linked to a reduction in the risk of heart-related death.

The researchers believe that billions of people around the world have low levels folic acid, and folic acid should be a key ingredient in one’s everyday diet. Several foods contain folic acid, including green leafy vegetables, citrus fruits, peas and beans, cereals, breads and pastas.

“Although we would hope that diet would be the best source of nutrients, sometimes it is impossible to get enough essential nutrients in our diets,” Steinbaum stated. “The study shows that with supplementation of folic acid, it might actually help prevent the risk of stroke.”

To learn more about cardiovascular disease, find a cardiologist near you.



American Livewire

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