By Kate Eller, Advocate Health care News Service
A Chinese study has found that folic acid – a nutrient taken by pregnant women to lower birth-defect risks – may also help lower stroke risk in people with high blood pressure.
More than 20,000 adults 45 to 75 years old with high blood pressure, but without a history of heart attack or stroke, participated in the study led by Dr. Yong Huo of Peking University First Hospital in Beijing. Study participants were randomly assigned to take enalapril, a drug used to treat high blood pressure, which is marketed as Vasotec in the U.S., along with a folic acid supplement. Other participants just took enalapril.
Taking the combination of the high blood pressure drug and a folic acid supplement resulted in a 21 percent lower first-time stroke risk.
Researchers also found that patients taking the high blood pressure drug in combination with folic acid had a lower risk (2.2 percent versus 2.8 percent) of ischemic stroke – the most common type of stroke, which is caused by a blockage.
“This is an important study showing the potential for reducing the risk of stroke by simply taking a daily supplement,” says Dr. William Cotts, an Advocate Heart Institute cardiologist at Christ Medical Center in Oak Lawn, Ill. “Further studies may be required to know whether this could prove to be helpful as well for people without high blood pressure.”
Folic acid is the man-made form of vitamin B. Dr. Cotts suggests talking to a cardiologist or primary care physician about adding more vitamin B to a person’s diet by increasing intake of foods that contain folate or by taking a daily folic acid supplement.
It is added to vitamin pills and fortified foods such as breakfast cereals and pasta, according to WebMD. Folate is the natural form of this vitamin and is found in leafy vegetables such as spinach, broccoli and lettuce; fruits like as bananas, melons and lemons; asparagus, beans and mushrooms; and orange juice and tomato juice.