Research has long shown that women who have cardiometabolic risk factors during pregnancy such as hypertensive disorders, diabetes or obesity are more likely to have children with high blood pressure. But a study has shown that if at-risk women can raise their levels of folic acid they can lower the chance their child will be born with unhealthy blood pressure.
High blood pressure in childhood often continues through life and puts the person at a greater risk of developing cardiovascular, metabolic and kidney disease and stroke. Children with elevated systolic blood pressure were also more likely to have lower birth weight, lower gestational age and a higher body mass index.
Researchers at the Boston Medical Center analyzed data from 1,290 mother-child pairs from high-risk, low-income urban areas. The participants were followed until the children were 9 years old. Thirty-eight percent of the mothers had cardiometabolic risk factors, and the researchers found 28.7 percent of the children had high blood pressure between the ages of 3 and 9.
But children born to mothers with folic acid levels above the median level had 40 percent lower odds of having elevated blood pressure, according to results published in the American Journal of Hypertension.
Physicians urge women who could become pregnant to take 400 micrograms of synthetic folic acid daily, which can be done by taking a multivitamin with folic acid in it. Citrus juices and dark green vegetables are also good sources of folic acid.
The researchers said taking this step before conception and during pregnancy may prevent high blood pressure and its consequences across lifespan and generations.