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Folic acid may lower stroke risk for people with hypertension

Folic acid associated with lower stroke risk in people with high blood pressure

Folic acid may help lower the risk of stroke in people with high blood pressure, according to a Chinese study.


The study, led by Dr. Yong Huo of Peking University First Hospital in Beijing, tracked outcomes for over 20,000 adults in China with high blood pressure who had not suffered a stroke or heart attack. The participants were randomly assigned a daily pill with folic acid and enalapril, a high blood pressure drug, or enalapril alone.

Over a median treatment period of four and a half years, first strokes occurred in 282 participants (2.7 percent) in the folic acid/enalapril group and 355 participants (3.4 percent) in the enalapril group. Those in the folic acid/enalapril group were 21 percent less likely to have a stroke than those in the enalapril group.

Patients in the folic acid/enalapril group also had a reduced risk of ischemic stroke, 2.2 percent versus 2.8 percent. Ischemic strokes are caused by an obstruction in a blood vessel supplying blood to the brain.

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Folic acid was also linked to a reduction in heart-related death, heart attack and stroke, the researchers found. However, there were no significant differences between the folic acid/enalapril and enalapril groups in the risk of bleeding stroke or death from other causes.

The study was published March 15 in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA).

Stroke is the leading cause of death in China and the second leading cause of death worldwide.

Folic acid, a B vitamin, is found naturally in leafy vegetables and citrus fruits, as well as meat and beans. Foods such as cereals, pastas, and breads are often fortified with folic acid.

A 2013 study also published in JAMA found that folic acid may be associated with lower rates of childhood autism, the most severe form of the disorder. The study found that women who took folic acid four weeks before getting pregnancy and eight weeks into pregnancy were 40 percent less likely to give birth to a child with autism.