If your body doesn’t have enough iron, it cannot produce enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells, which can result in insufficient hemoglobin levels, and lead to a disorder called anemia. Anemia affects thousands of people worldwide every year. Symptoms can include headaches, chest pains, shortness of breath, fast or irregular heartbeat, dizziness, and pale skin.
There are numerous risk factors for iron-deficiency anemia, including age, gender and health status, with women and children having a higher likelihood for developing the health problem. The more risks you have, the higher the chances of you developing it. Iron deficiency results in many of the early symptoms associated with anemia, including fatigue and decreased immune function, and can affect anyone, but most at risk are:
Pregnant Women and Women of Childbearing Years
Women of childbearing years are the highest risk groups for developing iron-deficiency, being affected by blood loss due to menstruation or elevated hemoglobin needs due to pregnancy. These women need more iron and folic acid to guard against too little of it due to their own body growth, to provide for the fetus and to prevent neural tube defects in the baby. Anemia rates among pregnant women are believed by some to be underrated, as some symptoms, such as fatigue and insomnia, are attributed simply to the pregnancy. But this can be dangerous for pregnant women with poor healthcare access or who are not receiving regular hospital check-ups, as anemia increases the chance of growth retardation (the fetus stops developing) and premature birth.
Low iron is also common in women between puberty and menopause due to blood loss experienced through menstruation and the greater demands on the blood supply.
Pain killers, such as aspirin, can cause low levels of bleeding from the stomach which you may be oblivious to. If you pop such pills too often, the risk is higher. Medicines used to lower stomach acid may also lower the amount of iron that’s taken into the body. Others, such as some antibiotics and steroids, can also make your risk for iron deficiency higher.
Malnourishment or eating poorly can make the risk of certain types of anemia higher. This can also happen if you drink too much tea, coffee or eat a lot of wheat-based foods, as these may slow how much iron is taken into the body.
Long-term or serious illness can also represent a patient’s risk of having an iron deficiency. Diseases such as diabetes, kidney disease, rheumatoid arthritis, HIV/AIDS, cancer, inflammatory bowel disease, and cardiovascular disease have been associated with a higher prevalence of anemia. Many problems in the stomach or intestines may slow how the body takes in iron, vitamin B12, or folate.
Children, Particularly During Major Growth Phases
Young children are also at high risk for anemia due to lack of iron-fortified foods like cereals while having elevated iron needs to manage their growth and development at the same time. Due to rapid growth, nutritional choices and limited diet, the most at risk are toddlers and children of preschool age. Young children often receive a good supply of dairy. However, this food group is deficient inadequate iron and can ultimately increase the child’s risk of developing iron-deficiency anemia.
Treatment for any of these risk factors may include adjusting nutrient quality by increasing the intake of iron-rich foods and using vitamin supplements to improve the absorption of iron. Vitamin C, Folic acid as well as Vitamin B12, which help patients absorb iron, may also be used in a treatment protocol. Talk to your doctor and find out if you’re at a greater risk for iron deficiency and the steps you need to take to lower your risk.