CPHRL Research Lab

Iron Deficiency Is Linked to Increased Risk of Stroke


According to Wikipedia, “A stroke, sometimes referred to as a cerebrovascular accident (CVA), is the rapid loss of brain function due to disturbance in the blood supply to the brain.” This means when the blood supply to the brain is blocked or when a blood vessel in the brain ruptures it results in stroke.
Stroke is the fourth leading cause of death in the United States. As per the statistics available at Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, one American dies from a stroke every 4 minutes, on average. This disturbing figure often makes people to look for ways to prevent stroke or reduce their risk. 

Iron foods

If you are serious about your health, then increasing your intake of iron based foods can reduce your risk of stroke. Low iron levels can raise your risk of stroke by making your blood stickier. This is revealed by a new study done at Imperial College London in the U.K which is recently published in the journal PLOS One.

Researchers at Imperial College London in the U.K analyzed the data of nearly 500 people. All of these people suffered from a rare hereditary disease called hereditary haemorrhagic telangiectasia (HHT) that causes enlarged blood vessels in the lungs. In normal condition, blood vessels in the lungs don’t allow clots to enter the arteries. But in these people, clots can escape the lungs, travel to the brain and cause a stroke.

During the research, it was found that people who had an iron deficiency had stickier platelets and at a higher risk to suffer a stroke. Even those with moderately low iron levels were about twice as likely to suffer a stroke as those with iron levels in the middle of the normal range.

Dr. Claire Shovlin, from the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, said in a college news release, “Since platelets in the blood stick together more if you are short of iron, we think this may explain why being short of iron can lead to strokes, though much more research will be needed to prove this link.”

She also added that “The next step is to test whether we can reduce high-risk patients’ chances of having a stroke by treating their iron deficiency. We will be able to look at whether their platelets become less sticky. There are many additional steps from a clot blocking a blood vessel to the final stroke developing, so it is still unclear just how important sticky platelets are to the overall process.”

She says the team hopes more studies will investigate the association between sticky platelets and stroke.

The benefits of iron

According to the World Health Organization (WHO), more than 30% of the world’s population suffers from anemia which happens due to iron deficiency. Iron is essential for the proper growth and development of the human body. It helps metabolize proteins and plays a role in the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells. Iron helps supply oxygen to blood making it very important for brain health.

Iron deficiency can happen due to loss of blood, poor diet, or body’s inability to absorb a sufficient amount of iron from food. According to the US National Heart, Lung and Blood Institute (NHLBI), the best sources of iron are meat, poultry, fish and iron-fortified foods. If you are getting sufficient iron from food sources, then you can take iron supplements after consulting a doctor.


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