Folic Acid Could Reduce Stroke Risk
People with high blood pressure could reduce their stroke risk by taking folic acid supplements, according to new research from China.
The study found that folic acid supplements, when taken alongside blood pressure lowering medication, reduce the risk of stroke by up to 73% in high-risk patients.
High blood pressure
One in four adults in the UK has high blood pressure. Having high blood pressure is the single biggest risk factor for stroke. It causes half of all ischaemic strokes – where a blood clot blocks the flow of blood and oxygen to the brain.
A compound called homocysteine has been associated with blood clots. Folic acid can reduce the level of homocysteine in the blood, and so there has been research carried out to see whether increasing folic acid could reduce the risk of blood clots and therefore strokes.
Folic acid supplement
This new research, published in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology, was a randomised controlled trial looking at the impact of folic acid on stroke risk.
Over 10,000 Chinese adults with high blood pressure were randomised to receive either enalapril (a blood pressure lowering medication) and folic acid, or just enalapril. They were followed up for four years.
The results showed that 371 strokes occurred during the four years. Among the high-risk group, there was a 73% reduction in the risk of stroke following folic acid treatment.
In the highest-risk group, 1.8% of people taking folic acid had a stroke, compared with 5.6% of those not taking folic acid. In the lowest-risk group, 3% of people taking folic acid had a stroke, compared with 3.3% of those not taking folic acid.
Risk of stroke was categorised by the level of homocysteine in the blood, and platelet count.
The differences seen were only for those strokes that were caused by a blood clot.
Identify high risk groups
China has an increasing rate of stroke, and so identifying people who are at high risk and recommending they take folic acid could reduce the risk.
Study author, Dr Yong Huo, said: “If the findings are further confirmed, we can raise the prospect that we can identify patients at high risk of developing first stroke by measuring both platelet and homocysteine, and we can remarkably lower stroke risk among this subgroup of patients with folic acid - a simple, safe and inexpensive treatment.”
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