Good News for Women: Folate Lowers Blood Pressure

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health, Women's Health, Blood Pressure
Last Reviewed 02/06/2014

If you're a woman with high blood pressure, increase your folic acid intake.A study published in the Journal of the American Medical Association (JAMA) showed women who took more than 1,000 mcg a day of folate (folic acid) had an astonishing 46 percent lower risk of high blood pressure than those getting less then 200 mcg a day.

JAMA’s report was based upon published data from the ongoing Nurses Health Study (NHS) regarding folate intake. Researchers followed a huge group—nearly 94,000 women ranging in age from 27 to 44—for over eight years.

While researchers have yet to explain the reason for the association between high folate intake and lower risk for hypertension, we do know that folic acid reduces homocysteine levels, and high homocysteine levels are toxic to blood vessels in the brain and heart. We also know that high homocysteine levels are definitely a threat to hypertensive women.

What’s the takeaway for you?

  • Increase your folic acid intake if you’re a woman with high blood pressure (above 140/80).
  • Don’t depend on dietary sources—such as oranges, leafy, greens, and beans—for your folic acid intake. The NHS demonstrated that women who got their folate from dietary sources—such as oranges, leafy greens and beans—did not derive the same benefit as those taking folic acid supplements. 
  • Taking at least 800 mcg a day of folic acid in supplement form is absolutely the way to go—since most of us only get about 200 mcg in foods.

Now it’s your turn: Do you have a question about women and heart health?

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