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Are You Fortified? The Facts About Folic Acid: What Every Black Woman Needs to Know

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Are You Fortified? The Facts About Folic Acid: What Every Black Woman Needs to Know

 

Black and Latina women have higher pregnancy risks of certain conditions that the right amount of folic acid can help prevent. Get the facts.

Every woman of childbearing age should be thinking about their health all day, every day. In fact, recent stats show  approximately 50% of women aged 15-44 have at least one unplanned pregnancy in their lives. That means a good number of us may have an unexpected surprise in 2010. That’s why I wanted to tell you that this week, January 4-10th, is Folic Acid Awareness Week.

Sponsored by the National Council on Folic Acid (NCFA) http://www.folicacidinfo.org/pages/folicacid_info.php, the week is intended to educate all women about folic acid. If taken before and during early pregnancy from a multi-vitamin or fortified foods, folic acid can prevent from 50% to 70% of some forms of serious birth defects of the brain and spine, called neural tube defects (NTD).  Getting the right amount of folic acid is particularly important to Black and Latina women. Not only do Latinas have higher rates of NTD-affected pregnancies, they also have the lowest awareness about folic acid than women of other ethnic groups, and lower consumption of folic acid than white non-Hispanic women, according to recent studies.  In addition to preventing NTDs, increased folic acid has been linked to preventing preeclampsia, a form of severe high blood pressure that usually occurs after 37 weeks of pregnancy. The potentially fatal condition is more common in black women. Studies show that when black women have preeclampsia they tend to have a severe form of the disorder and experience it as early as six months in the pregnancy compared to the typical 9th month.   Doctors have not yet pinpointed exactly why this disparity exists, however, one study found that black women had less folic acid and more of a certain amino acid than white women as a pre-existing condition, which put them at a higher risk during pregnancy. The findings suggest that black women take more folic acid before and during pregnancy and as early as possible. (http://www.msnbc.msn.com/id/4781703 )  The easiest way to make sure you’re getting enough folic acid all the time is by taking a multi-vitamin, B vitamin complex pill or folic acid pill and eating fortified foods like grains, pastas or breakfast cereals. Folate is found naturally in foods such as leafy green vegetables, beans, liver and some fruit. But for some reason, scientists have found that folic acid, the synthetic version of folate, is actually easier for your body to absorb than folate.  Even if you don’t have a planned or unplanned pregnancy in the cards, folic acid is pretty important to your healthy living. Studies show that folic acid reduces the risk of certain cancers; cardiovascular diseases including coronary heart disease and stroke; and cognitive diseases or mental conditions such as Alzheimer’s disease, age-related dementia or cognitive decline and depression. We can all use that.   

 

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