Folic Acid May Help Ward Off Stroke in People With High Blood Pressure
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Friday, April 17, 2015 12:00 AM

Folic acid may also help lower stroke risk in people with high blood pressure, a new Chinese study finds.

The findings are intriguing, one U.S. heart health expert said.  "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." 

The new study tracked outcomes for more than 20,000 adults in China with high blood pressure who had not suffered a heart attack or stroke. Participants were randomly assigned to take a daily pill with folic acid and the high blood pressure drug enalapril (brand name Vasotec) or a pill with enalapril alone.

Over a median treatment period of 4.5 years, first strokes occurred in 2.7 percent of those in the enalapril/folic acid group and 3.4 percent of those in the enalapril group, the study found. That means that the risk of stroke was 21 percent lower among those taking enalapril/folic acid.

Patients taking enalapril/folic acid also had a lower risk of ischemic stroke (2.2 percent versus 2.8 percent), specifically. Ischemic strokes are strokes caused by a blockage, and comprise about 87 percent of all strokes, according to the American Stroke Association.

Adding folic acid was also tied to a reduction in heart-related death, heart attack and stroke (3.1 percent versus 3.9 percent), the investigators found.

There were no significant differences between the two groups in the risk of bleeding stroke or death from any cause, the study authors reported. "Low folic acid can be associated with elevated risk of heart disease and stroke." Often, an abnormality in a specific gene called MTHFR can lead to an individual having low folate levels.

Billions of people worldwide may have low levels of folic acid, which is a B vitamin. According to the U.S. National Institutes of Health, folic acid is found naturally in dark leafy vegetables, dried beans and peas, and citrus fruits and juices. Many foods -- such as breads, cereals and pastas -- are now fortified with folic acid. The nutrient can also be taken in supplements.

"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. The study shows that with supplementation of folic acid, it might actually help prevent the risk of stroke."


Source:  http://consumer.healthday.com/cardiovascular-health-information-20/heart-stroke-related-stroke-353/folic-acid-may-help-ward-off-stroke-in-people-with-high-blood-pressure-697400.html