You probably know that folic acid is an important nutrient for pregnant women and those who are trying to conceive—and now there's yet another benefit associated with taking it, especially for certain women.
You may have heard that you should be taking a prenatal vitamin before you even find out you're pregnant—and here's another reason to make sure you're on one if you're trying to conceive. A recent study published in the American Journal of Hypertension linked folic acid consumption during pregnancy to protection against high blood pressure in babies, especially for moms-to-be who had heart disease risk factors.
Researchers observed data from 1,300 mother-child pairs, and 29 percent of the babies born had high systolic blood pressure (which refers to systolic levels above the 75th percentile). They also observed that women who had heart disease risk factors had a 40 percent lower risk of giving birth to children with high blood pressure if they ingested high levels of folic acid during pregnancy. But folic acid doesn't appear to bring down high blood pressure risk in every case observed—this link was only apparent among women who had heart disease risk factors. These factors include smoking, diabetes and being overweight.
These findings are important, especially because high blood pressure can cause issues throughout your child's life. But the study was based on association alone, so there's no definitive proof of a cause-and-effect relationship here. The good news? It's easy to get that folic acid fix—prenatal vitamins contain the amount you need to give your baby a strong foundation. The best thing you can do is take prenatal vitamins if you're trying to have a baby. While this is something every mom-to-be should do, if you're a woman with heart disease risk factors, you should be especially vigilant about it.
"Our study adds further evidence on the early life origins of high blood pressure," senior author Xiaobin Wang said in a release for the study. "Our findings raise the possibility that early risk assessment and intervention before conception and during pregnancy may lead to new ways to prevent high blood pressure and its consequences across life spans and generations."