Folic acid is usually suggested when discussing pregnancy. Upping one’s dose of it is highly recommended for anyone in Anamosa or elsewhere who is expecting or trying to be pregnant. But not everyone knows that it has health benefits for others, including people receiving palliative care.
The team at Above and Beyond Home Health Care and Hospice are also familiar with folic acid, including how it can help anyone, not just pregnancy-age women.
Folic acid, part of the Vitamin B family of minerals, is particularly beneficial for seniors, so our team is happy to talk about it with clients, whether it’s in supplemental form like vitamins taken regularly or contained in foods. For instance, many green leafy vegetables like broccoli are high in folic acid. Fresh fruit, meats, and fortified cereals also will usually have this type of mineral. Even if you aren’t a fan of broccoli or greens, eating more avocados or even one banana a day can give you a useful boost of folate, plus other useful minerals like potassium.
Medical professionals say that folic acid stimulates the growth of red blood cells, which carry oxygen. If you have an abundance of these cells moving through your brain and your body, you’ll likely have a lot of energy and a better outlook on life due to your body working more optimally.
This is partly why large amounts of folic are highly recommended for pregnant women. Whatever the mother eats will be shared by the fetus and stimulate cell growth and development in the womb. Low amounts of it have been linked to certain birth defects and pre-term births, so taking the right amounts can significantly help reduce the risk of these conditions as well.
For those who aren’t pregnant, there are ways for the amount of folic acid to decrease in your body, a condition that may cause someone to start to feel run-down physically, mentally, and emotionally.
Learning more about folic acid
Unfortunately, it’s not all that hard for the body to lose folic acid, which is why it’s important to always keep fueling yourself.
Some conditions that can cause a decline in folic acid include:
- Certain medicines including those that help seizures
- Certain medical conditions, especially lower digestive tract issues like celiac disease
- Large amounts of alcohol taken regularly
- A diet that’s low in fruit, vegetables, grains, yeasts, and meats
People can suffer from a condition called folate-deficiency anemia which can include reduced appetite, pale skin, bad mood, and general fatigue.
A provider should be able to diagnose this, or at least that it’s a form of anemia. Then, he or she may just offer suggestions for how to increase the folic acid in your body, starting with eating better and a large dosage of supplements.
Of course, one of the possible conditions related to folic acid is that the body naturally absorbs it faster than it should. But if the initial deficiency is corrected, it can give the provider an opportunity to look for other underlying conditions that may have been masked by the low folic acid.
Folate for seniors
Should seniors take more folic acid? Generally, the answer is yes, but be sure to talk to a provider first about the appropriate dosage and if it conflicts with any other medications or conditions.
A variety of studies over the last few decades show that it may be able to provide some benefits to all ages, especially those aged 65 and over. These include improved memory and better cognitive function.
The test dose for one study was 800 micrograms, which is twice the amount typically recommended for adults.
A provider should be consulted since there are some possible side effects of higher doses of folate, including possible increases in the overall risk of stroke, Alzheimer’s disease, and heart disease.
Another concern is that a boost of energy from an increase in folic acid could mask problems stemming from a deficiency of Vitamin B-12.
Plus, the suggested amount used in the study is quite high. Harvard’s T.H. Chan School of Public Health said 400 micrograms are recommended for pregnant women, and 600 micrograms are suggested for someone who drinks alcohol regularly and depletes their folic acid. Any item of 1,000 micrograms is considered getting into the toxic range.
Because it’s generally known that folic acid is good for the brain and body due to carrying blood cells around, there are two commemorations and proclamations about it during the year. National Folic Awareness Week takes place Jan. 2-8 and again the second week of September.
These holidays are designed to encourage awareness and interest in taking folic acid regularly, especially for the pregnant population. Organizers also include a digital toolkit for those who want to put the word out on their own, including logos and sample social media posts.