12 January - 20 June 2016

Iron deficiency increases stroke risk

26 Feb 14

Low blood iron levels may increase a person's risk of suffering a stroke, recent research published by Imperial College London has revealed. The study, recently published in PLOS One, looked at the blood iron levels of 497 patients suffering from hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT). This disease can lead to enlarged blood vessels in the lungs, whereas healthy blood vessels usually filter out small blood clots before blood travels through the arteries to the brain. Such small clots may cause an ischaemic stroke.

It was observed that patients with normal iron levels (defined as 7-27 micromoles per litre) were half as likely to suffer from a stroke as those with lower levels. It has been suggested previously that low iron levels may cause an increase in the stickiness of red blood cells, and so it is thought that this may provide a mechanism by which blood clots can form. Further investigation needs to be made into whether treating iron deficiency would decrease the stickiness of red blood cells, and whether this technique could be used as a preventative treatment for patients at high risk of stroke.

Low blood iron levels, in the form of anaemia, affect more than 30% of the world's population and can be a result of blood loss, poor diet or the inability to absorb iron from food, as is the case for sufferers from Crohn's or celiac disease. Foods such as meat, poultry and fish are the best sources of naturally abundant iron; however many foods are also iron-fortified to help populations reach optimum blood iron levels. [MedicalNewsToday]

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