Iron deficiency, which is a type of anemia, is a common condition affecting approximately 2 billion people worldwide. According to researchers, iron deficiencies may be an indicator of increased stroke risk. A study performed in Imperial College London and published in the recently released PLoS One journal found that decreases in iron lead to higher than average clotting, and this increase of potentially dangerous clots can put an individual at a higher risk of stroke.
When iron levels are low, the cells in the blood used for clotting (platelets) exhibit increased "stickiness." This change in their structure triggers increased clotting which can break loose into the arteries and block blood flow to the brain. Some people are at a higher risk for iron deficiencies than others.
Factors that can increase an individual’s risks include:
*Gender – females are at a higher risk because they lose blood, and therefore lose iron during their menstrual cycle each month
*Age – infants and children are at a higher risk because they might not receive enough iron intake from breast milk or formulas and they might not be eating a healthy balanced diet
*Diet choices – not eating meats or other iron packed foods
*Routinely donating blood – frequent donations can deplete an individual’s iron stores
Researchers found that even individuals that had a minor iron deficiency were twice as likely to suffer a stroke than those with iron levels in the normal range. Acting on this data, the next phase of research will center around the ability to decrease stroke risk through iron supplementation
In the meantime, a good place to start is ensuring that you’re following a balanced diet that includes natural sources of iron. Natural foods enriched with iron include red meats, pork, poultry, seafood, beans, bark green leafy vegetables, dried fruits, iron-fortified breads, cereals, and pastas, and peas. Additionally, consuming foods that contain natural sources of vitamin C will also help the body to more efficiently absorb dietary iron.