Blood Iron Levels and Heart Disease

by Dr. Stephen Sinatra
Filed Under: Heart Health
Last Reviewed 03/28/2014

Serum ferritin, better known as iron, is vital to human life because it stimulates the production of hemoglobin, the red blood cell pigment that carries oxygen to our cells. Without it, we couldn’t survive. However, research suggests that iron overload, or hemachromatosis, is a risk factor of heart disease. Hemachromatosis is an acquired or heredi­tary defect of iron metabolism in which excess iron is deposited in tissues and not available for oxygen trans­port. Unless iron is lost through menstruation or donat­ing blood, over the years, toxic blood iron levels can accumulate in your system.

In the early 1980s, Jerome Sullivan, a pathologist, noticed that women who had undergone hysterectomies had increased incidence of heart disease. He suggested that if losing blood protected menstruating women from heart disease, men donating blood might also have similar protection. Sullivan’s findings, published in Lancet in 1981, were years ahead of their time, yet his theories have been accepted only recently.

Women and Blood Iron Levels

Half of American women will die of cardiovascular problems, including heart attack and stroke, yet risk levels among women vary tremendously.

Menstruating women produce estrogen, which is heart protective, and most lose a significant amount of iron in the blood each month. This can add up to 400–500 mg of ferritin iron per year (about equal to two pints of blood).

In contrast, postmenopausal women are four times more likely to have heart attacks. Not only do they lose the protection of regular menstrual iron depletion, their iron blood levels begin to rise steadily after menopause, more than doubling between 55 and 65, and even more after that.

If you are a postmenopausal woman, please be sure to have your doctor or holistic health practitioner check your iron blood level on a regular basis.  This is as important as maintaining healthy cholesterol, healthy triglycerides and healthy blood pressure when it comes to ensuring your wellness.

For more information on healthy heart nutrition for women and hemachromatosis, visit www.drsinatra.com.

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