Folic acid cuts stroke risk for patients with high BP by 21%

Folic acid supplements reduce the risk of stroke in people with high blood pressure, a study has found.

High BP: folic acid found to cut stroke risk for patients with hypertension (Photo: Jim Varney)
High BP: folic acid found to cut stroke risk for patients with hypertension (Photo: Jim Varney)

A study of more than 20,000 people in China found that combining folic acid supplements with hypertension medication meant patients were 21% less likely to have a stroke.

The authors say that those with low-to-moderate folate levels should receive targeted folic acid therapy to reduce the risk of stroke.

Half of the participants took 0.8mg of folic acid alongside 10mg of high blood pressure drug enalapril every day for 4.5 years, while the control group took enalapril only. None of the participants had previously had a stroke or heart attack.

Stroke risk reduced

Only 2.7 % of the folic acid group had a stroke, compared to 3.4% of the control group, the researchers found. There was no difference in rates of heart attack or death.

Participants who had low folate levels when the study, published in the Journal of the American Medical Association began were the most likely to benefit from this protective effect, the researchers from Peking University First Hospital said.

‘We speculate that even in countries with folic acid fortification and widespread use of folic acid supplements […] there may still be room to further reduce stroke incidence using more targeted folic acid therapy,’ they wrote.

In an accompanying editorial, Dr Meir Stampfer and Dr Walter Willett from Harvard University said the results were ‘remarkable’ and have ‘important implications for stroke prevention worldwide’.

History of high BP

Folic acid supplements would be beneficial even to people without a history of high blood pressure, they said, although the overall effect would be smaller.

Folate levels can be boosted by eating leafy vegetables, brown rice, and granary bread, but expense and availability can make this difficult.

‘This study seems to support fortification programs where feasible, and supplementation should be considered where fortification will take more time to implement,’ they wrote.

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