Weather Heat Waves with Folic Acid Supplements

Folic acid supplements can increase skin blood flow in elderly patients during heat waves and reduce related cardiovascular events.

Folic acid supplements can increase skin blood flow in elderly patients during heat waves and reduce related cardiovascular events.

When young individuals are exposed to heat, sweating combined with increased blood flow can cool their bodies down. Older patients’ bodies, on the other hand, are not able to increase skin blood flow at the same speed, putting them at greater risk for heart attack and stroke during heat waves.

Supplemental folic acid may improve this by increasing the bioavailability of tetrahydrobiopterin (BH4), which stimulates nitric oxide production and ultimately enhances blood vessel dilation, recent research suggests.

“Our study suggests that chronic folic acid supplementation increases thermoregulatory skin blood flow in healthy older adults, so in addition to avoiding extreme heat and staying hydrated, pharmacists may recommend that their patients also include folic acid in their daily regimen during the summer months,” study author Anna Stanhewicz, PhD, explained to Pharmacy Times. “…Chronic supplementation may be one additional measure that older adults can include in their healthy lifestyle to improve thermoregulatory skin blood flow.”

To arrive at this conclusion, Dr. Stanhewicz and colleagues performed localized heating and whole-body heating in very healthy elderly patients. In the localized heating study, folic acid solution was delivered directly to older patients’ skin using 2 intradermal microdialysis fibers. These participants received both folic acid and a placebo at randomized sites on their arms, so they could serve as their own controls.

In the whole-body heating study, patients were given 5 mg of folic acid or placebo once a day for 6 weeks. The researchers performed all tests in a temperature-neutral laboratory with the subjects lying down and the experimental arm supported at heart level. Skin temperature was controlled using a water-perfused suit that covered the entire body except for the head, hands, feet, and forearms.

In the future, the researchers would like to find out if folic acid supplementation can improve blood vessel function in older patients diagnosed with cardiovascular disease, and also determine whether those who have taken folic acid supplements throughout their lives have better cardiovascular health.

“Our [current] results suggest that folic acid may be beneficial for blood vessel health, and this may impact how pharmacists council patients about including a daily multivitamin as part of their healthy lifestyle,” Dr. Stanhewicz told Pharmacy Times.