Why Folate Is Important for High Blood Pressure

How a Balanced Diet Can Lower Blood Pressure

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Folate is a member of the B vitamin family, specifically vitamin B9, and some studies show that folate may help prevent high blood pressure. This vitamin occurs naturally in food, with dark green vegetables and legumes, including beans and peanuts, representing some of the most folate-rich foods. The synthetic form of folate, the form added to food and supplements, is called folic acid. Although two different forms, the general public frequently uses them interchangeably.

The Linus Pauling Institute recommends healthy adults take a supplement containing 400 μg of folic acid per day, along with eating a folate-rich diet, to maintain optimal health.

Vitamin B9 is important for a variety of body functions, including:

  • Making DNA
  • Repairing tissues like blood vessels
  • Manufacturing red blood cells

Food manufacturers use it to fortify foods such as breakfast cereals, bread, and packaged meals.

Folate it a vital nutrient for pregnant women and a deficiency is known to cause a variety of serious birth defects.

Higher Folate Intake, Lower Incidences of Hypertension

Studies show folate may have a positive effect on blood pressure.

  • It may increase nitric oxide synthesis in the cells lining the interior of blood vessels, called endothelial cells. Nitric oxide helps those cells fight against vascular disease.
  • It may decrease plasma homocysteine, which can injure endothelial cells.

According to a study from the University of North Carolina and published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition, young adults with the highest folate intake may be less likely to develop hypertension later in life. Known as the Coronary Artery Risk Development in Young Adults study, researchers drew this conclusion after following 4,400 men and women between the ages of 18 and 30, for 20 years. 

Folic Acid and Stroke Prevention 

A recent study, from Peking University and published in a news release from the Journal of the American Medical Association, tracked the outcomes of 20,000 hypertensive adults who had never had a heart attack or stroke. The group taking a pill containing folic acid and the high blood pressure medication Vasotec (enalapril) had 21 percent lower risk of than those who took enalapril alone.

Folate Deficiency

Folate is a water-soluble vitamin, which means the body doesn't store it in large amounts. This deficiency can quickly become a health issue and only takes a few weeks before you start to notice symptoms. If you're concerned, a health care provider can detect a folate deficiency with a blood test. 

Common causes of folate deficiency include:

  • Chronic alcohol consumption
  • Smoking
  • Not eating enough fresh fruits and vegetables
  • Digestive diseases that may prevent nutrient absorption, including Crohn's disease

Common symptoms of a folate deficiency include:

  • A swollen tongue
  • Feeling fatigue
  • Gray hair

Low body folate levels might be linked to increased risk of some health conditions, including:

Certain medication can negatively affect the amount of folate in your body:

  • Very large therapeutic doses, not routine use, of NSAIDs, including aspirin or ibuprofen
  • The cholesterol-lowering drugs Colestid (cholestyramine) and Questran (colestipol)
  • Medications containing high doses of the hormone estrogen, including some birth control pills

Read More About Folate

View Article Sources
  • Healthfinder.gov: Folic Acid May Help Ward Off Stroke in People With High Blood Pressure (2015).
  • Linus Pauling Institute Micronutrient Information Center: Folate
  • Medline Plus: Folate Deficiency
  • Xun, et al. American Journal of Clinical Nutrition: Folate Intake and Incidence of Hypertension Among American Young Adults: a 20-yr Follow-up Study (2012).