People who take the B vitamin folic acid (folate) may increase the chances that arteries will respond to the body's call for more oxygen-rich blood, a step that could reduce the risk for heart attack and stroke. Previous research has shown that folic acid helps reduce levels of homocysteine, an amino acid associated with increased risk of stroke and heart disease. Previous studies have shown that folate can lower homocysteine levels over 8 weeks.
Researchers from Hong Kong gave 29 healthy men and women with high homocysteine levels a relatively high dose of folic acid daily for a year, and then measured their levels of folic acid and homocysteine, as well as their blood vessel function. Folic acid supplements reduced homocysteine levels by 12% and increased folic acid levels by 69%.
As well, function of the thin layer of cells that line the arteries was improved so the could expand more easily. Blood vessels need to be able to expand and supply blood to oxygen-starved tissues such as the heart, on demand.
The best sources of folate include spinach, lentils, orange juice, avocado, asparagus and artichoke. To supplement, take 0.4 to 1 milligram once daily. (The daily upper limit is 1.0 milligram).
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