WEDNESDAY, March 8, 2017 (HealthDay News) -- Higher folic acid levels during pregnancy may reduce the risk of high blood pressure in children if their mothers have heart disease risk factors, a new study suggests.
"Our study adds further evidence on the early life origins of high blood pressure," said senior corresponding author Dr. Xiaobin Wang, a pediatrician from Boston University.
The study was published March 8 in the American Journal of Hypertension.
"Our findings raise the possibility that early risk assessment and intervention before conception and during pregnancy may lead to new ways to prevent high blood pressure and its consequences across life span and generations," Wang said in a journal news release.
She and her research colleagues looked at data from almost 1,300 mother-child pairs from births at Boston Medical Center. The moms and kids were followed from 2003 to 2014. Two-thirds of this group were black, and nearly 20 percent were Hispanic.
The researchers wanted to see if a woman's folic acid levels and heart disease risk factors -- including high blood pressure, diabetes and obesity -- during pregnancy individually and jointly had an impact on a child's blood pressure.
Nearly 29 percent of the children had elevated systolic blood pressure from ages 3 to 9 years. Systolic blood pressure is the top number in a blood pressure reading. Kids with higher blood pressure were more likely to have mothers with pre-pregnancy obesity, high blood pressure and diabetes.
Those children were also more likely to have lower birth weight, lower gestational age and a higher body mass index (BMI -- an estimate of body fat based on height and weight).
Higher levels of folic acid during pregnancy were associated with a 40 percent lower risk of high blood pressure among children of mothers with heart disease risk factors.
However, a mother's folic acid levels alone were not linked with a child's blood pressure. She had to also have heart disease risk factors for folic acid to make a difference, the study found.
The study was only designed to find a link between these factors; it couldn't prove a cause-and-effect relationship.
The U.S. National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute has more on high blood pressure.