Supplemental folic acid can enhance blood vessel dilation in older adults, according to Penn State researchers, suggesting that folic acid supplements may be an inexpensive alternative for helping older adults to increase skin blood flow during heat waves and reduce cardiovascular events.
Anna Stanhewicz, post-doctoral fellow in kinesiology, said that when older adults are exposed to heat, their bodies are not able to increase skin blood flow to the same extent that young subjects do, and as a consequence, older adults are at a greater risk for cardiovascular events, such as heart attack and stroke, during environmental heat waves.
Researchers know this is due, in part, to aged blood vessels that cannot produce enough nitric oxide. When young, healthy people are exposed to heat, their bodies increase blood flow to the skin and this increased flow, combined with sweating, helps to cool the body down. In this study, researchers found that when they locally increased folic acid availability, those blood vessels produced more nitric oxide.
The researchers published their results online in the journal Clinical Science.