By Ketul Chauhan, MD, FACC
Premier Heart and Vascular Center, Zephyrhills

Folate is a B vitamin and an essential part of our diet; it can be found naturally in many leafy vegetables, beans, mushrooms, meats and several other foods. Folic acid is a water-soluble B vitamin that helps break down homocysteine, an amino acid found in our blood. It is essentially a synthetic form of folate and is mainly used for treating folate deficiency

Folate Deficiency Anemia

Folic acid is needed by people who have folate deficiency anemia. The deficiency means that your body doesn’t have enough B vitamins and cannot create as many red blood cells as it should.

When this happens, your blood doesn’t send enough oxygen to tissues and organs throughout your body. That causes them to operate at a lower efficiency. It’s why people with anemia don’t have enough energy.

There are several other symptoms of folate deficiency anemia:

  • Lower appetite
  • Pale skin
  • Diarrhea
  • Smooth and tender tongue
  • Feeling irritable

Folate deficiency anemia is usually caused by the lack of folic acid in your diet. This happens in people who don’t eat enough foods with B vitamins, specifically those rich in folate, like the ones mentioned above.

Additionally, there are several other risks for folate deficiency:

  • Excessive alcohol consumption
  • A condition that prevents the body from absorbing enough folic acid
  • Specific medicines, like the ones that control seizures, can lead to deficiency
  • Pregnancy

Now, what does folic acid have to do with the heart?

The Folic Acid and Heart Connection

Folic acid has long since been proven to be incredibly important for pregnant women, as it can prevent several congenital disabilities.

However, other people can benefit from folic acid, even if they don’t have a folate deficiency. It is said that a person’s risk of heart disease and stroke can be reduced by up to 20 percent with a daily recommended dose of folic acid.

That’s mainly because homocysteine, the amino acid we mentioned at the start of this article, is known to be an independent risk factor for heart disease. As folic acid helps break down homocysteine, it’s very likely that it can reduce your risk of heart disease, as well.

Researchers state that by increasing folic acid intake, you may:

  • Decrease the risk of heart disease by 16 percent
  • Decrease the risk of a stroke by 24 percent
  • Decrease the possibility of a blood clot forming in your legs by 25 percent

Key Takeaways

All in all, folic acid, even though it’s not commonly associated with the heart, can affect it significantly.

In our next post, we will discuss how to prevent all of the problems we’ve mentioned here and how to treat folate deficiency anemia and other issues connected to abnormal levels of folic acid. So, keep following our blog and contact us if you have any other questions about cardiovascular health.