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
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.