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Folic Acid for Heart Health

Good news for people concerned about their heart health. Doctors say there may be a benefit in taking vitamins and foods containing folic acid. CBS Medical correspondent Elizabeth Kaledin has the story.

"I advise my patients who are over the age of 40, especially if they have a family history of heart disease, to take folic acid routinely," says Dr. Mehmet Oz, a cardiac surgeon. He believes the supplement has the power to actually prevent a heart attack.

Until now, folic acid has only been recommended for pregnant women. The supplement has the ability to prevent birth defects. This is one of the reasons why in 1998, the federal government decided to recommend its inclusion in foods like breads and pastas.

Folic acid also lowers levels of a chemical in the blood called homocysteine. Like cholesterol, high homocysteine levels have been linked to heart disease.

"We understand now we have an elevated chemical in the blood causing a very precise bit of damage that we can reverse with a safe innocuous vitamin pill," says Oz.

One of Oz's patients, Robert McDonough, wishes he had known about the supplement sooner. He says it might have prevented his heart attack and more than a dozen surgeries to repair damaged arteries.

"Since I've been on folic acid, I haven't had the problem with blockage around my heart," he says.

Experts say folic acid alone cannot reverse heart disease without a good diet and exercise. But the dietary supplement has gotten a thumbs-up from many doctors think it could do more good than harm.

Folic acid is a B vitamin that can be found in leafy green vegetables such as spinach, kale, and broccoli.

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