The Dangers of Iron Deficiency

It might be surprising, but iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the United States. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, approximately 10% of women suffer from iron deficiency. Iron is a fundamental component of hemoglobin, the protein molecule in red blood cells that carries oxygen from the lungs to the cells of the body and returns carbon dioxide to the lungs.

Approximately 70% of the body’s iron is stored in an individual’s hemoglobin. If not enough iron is available, the body will not be able to produce a sufficient supply of oxygen-carrying red blood cells, causing a condition referred to as iron-deficiency anemia.

It is very important to be aware of the common symptoms of iron deficiency. They include:

  1. Fatigue
  2. Weakness
  3. Dizziness
  4. Headaches
  5. Shortness of breath
  6. Cold hands and feet
  7. Chest pain
  8. Heart palpitations
  9. Difficulty concentrating
  10. An inability to fight infection

There are also several physical signs of iron deficiency that are easily identifiable. They include:

  1. Pale or yellow skin
  2. Brittle nails
  3. Cracks at the side of the mouth
  4. Inflammation of the tongue
  5. Hair loss

The main causes of iron deficiency are poor dietary habits, malabsorption of iron due to gastrointestinal conditions, and blood loss. Congestive heart failure, kidney failure, internal bleeding and obesity can also lead to this condition.

Fortunately, the diagnosis of iron deficiency can usually be determined by a simple blood test. Unless your doctor suspects that this deficiency is caused by heart failure, kidney failure or internal bleeding, treatment will also be simple. In the majority of cases, iron pills will be prescribed. Once this occurs, iron levels typically return to normal within two months.

It is important to be aware of the risk of iron deficiency. In most cases, the deficiency is easy to diagnose and easy to treat. But since the cause may be due to one of the more serious conditions mentioned above, it is especially important to see your doctor as soon as possible if iron deficiency is suspected.

At Hamilton Grove Healthcare and Rehabilitation Center, in Hamilton, NJ, our care programs are designed specifically to meet the unique needs and interests of seniors and long-term care patients. We emphasize restorative care, maximizing each patient’s potential to regain and maintain function and mobility. Part of our success is due to the care we take with our residents’ nutrition. Our world-class culinary team offers a tempting variety of meal selections that are produced under the supervision of a registered dietitian. The result: well-balanced, health-conscious meals that are sure to please even the most discerning palate. And, of course, special dietary needs are always gladly accommodated.

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