Health Tip: Taking Folic Acid

(HealthDay News) -- Folic acid is an important B vitamin for women -- especially for those who are pregnant or who are planning to become pregnant. It can help prevent serious birth defects of the baby's brain and spine.

Folic acid may also benefit men and women of any age, the U.S. National Institutes of Health says. Some studies show that it may help prevent heart disease, stroke, some cancers and Alzheimer's disease.

You should always talk to your doctor about what's an appropriate amount for you. The NIH site offers these general guidelines about folic acid:

* Women who are able to become pregnant should take 400 micrograms of folic acid each day.
* Pregnant women need 600 micrograms daily.
* Breast-feeding women need 500 micrograms daily.
* Women who have had a baby with certain birth defects -- such as spina bifida or anencephaly -- and who want to have another baby should check with their doctor. These women may need as much as 4,000 micrograms of folic acid per day.
* Women who have had a baby with these birth defects and who do not plan to have another baby should take 400 micrograms daily.

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