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Black women with high blood pressure during pregnancy have higher homocysteine levels

DALLAS, April 20 Black women with pregnancy-induced high blood pressure have more homocysteine (an amino acid linked with atherosclerosis) and less folic acid in their blood than white women, according to a study published in the rapid access issue of Hypertension: Journal of the American Heart Association.

This difference may contribute to the higher rates of the hypertension condition known as preeclampsia among black women and indicate future risk for cardiovascular disease, said lead author Thelma E. Patrick, Ph.D., R.N., an assistant professor at the University of Pittsburgh School of Nursing and an assistant investigator at Magee-Womens Research Institute.

"There is a higher incidence of preeclampsia in black women and we know that when black women experience the disorder they are more likely to have a more severe form that shows up as early as six months into pregnancy," Patrick said.

It's unclear if the differences are due to diet, lifestyle or heredity. But, since high homocysteine levels have been linked to diets low in folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12, Patrick said the finding suggests that it may be necessary to increase folic acid intake among blacks.

Epidemiological studies of non-pregnant populations have shown that too much homocysteine in the blood is related to a higher risk of coronary heart disease and stroke, though no causal link has been established, she said.

Blood homocysteine levels are strongly influenced by diet and genetic factors. Folic acid and vitamins B6 and B12 help break down homocysteine. Folic acid is found in green, leafy vegetables such as spinach, turnip greens and kale, while B6 and B12 come from grains and other types of food. Folic acid, B6 and B12 can be found in prenatal vitamins. Because low folic acid is also associated with birth defects in the nervous system, the United States requires cereal and bread to be fortified with folic acid.

Preeclampsia affects an estimated 3 to 5 per
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Contact: Carole Bullock
carole.bullock@heart.org
214-706-1279
American Heart Association
19-Apr-2004


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