Wednesday, March 24, 2010

Iron and Your Heart

Are iron supplements bad for your heart? According to media reports from years ago, the answer is yes. In fact, they suggested that taking iron might increase a person’s risk of heart attack based on a study conducted in Finnish males. But, in reality, this study was blown out of proportion. No studies conducted in other populations have come to this conclusion. In fact, some studies have tested this hypothesis by examining iron stores (ferritin) in those with coronary heart disease, comparing them to age and gender matched controls and they found no differences in iron status in those with compared to those without coronary heart disease.

There is however, a relationship between iron and heart functioning. Iron deficiency anemia decreases oxygen delivery to the heart, causing the heart to work harder to pump oxygen to the body. By working harder this increases the likelihood of abnormal heart rhythm (arrhythmia), which can increase heart attack risk. In addition, a significant percentage of patients with heart failure are anemic. However, IV treatment for iron deficiency in these patients improves symptoms, functional capacity and quality of life.

If you have coronary heart disease, don’t lower the iron in your diet but, if you have questions talk to your physician. Always talk to your physician about all supplements you are taking, the dosage and frequency. Never take any vitamin or mineral in excess of your needs.

J Nutr 2008;138:2436-2441.
Ann Epidemiol. 2000 Oct;10(7):441-8.

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