There are several reasons why this happens.
Gastrointestinal problems can prevent your body from getting iron from your diet. “As we age, the cells in the lining of the stomach can die, so iron is not absorbed properly,” says Michael Auerbach, a clinical professor of medicine at Georgetown University in Washington, DC.
Certain drugs, e.g. acid reflux, may also interfere with iron metabolism. One paper found that taking low-dose daily aspirin increased the risk of anemia by 20 percent in older adults. Research in 2023 published in Annual Report of Internal Medicine. Aspirin can cause gastrointestinal bleeding and decrease iron levels due to blood loss.
Underlying health problems can also cause iron deficiency, says Caroline Cromwell, an assistant professor at the Icahn School of Medicine at Mount Sinai in New York. Some diseases common in older adults, such as ulcers, colon polyps and cancer, can cause internal bleeding, she says.
If you suspect iron deficiency or have signs of anemia, such as fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, or cold hands and feet, consult your health care provider before taking any action.
Men and women over the age of 50 need 8 milligrams of iron per day. “Most American adults get enough iron through their diet,” says Vijaya Surampudi, an assistant professor of medicine at the UCLA Center for Human Nutrition in California.
But vegans and vegetarians may need to take up to 15mg, she says. That’s because only 1 to 10 percent of the iron found in plants and iron-fortified foods called non-heme is absorbed by the body, compared to the 25 to 30 percent of heme iron found in meat, fish, and poultry.
To help absorb iron from plant foods, eat foods containing vitamin C (such as citrus fruits, tomatoes, peppers, and broccoli) at the same meal. Studies have shown that this gives you up to 7 times more iron from plant sources.
Also think about what you’re drinking.coffee and tea Reduces iron absorption. Antioxidants in these drinks called polyphenols can bind to iron and prevent it from entering the bloodstream, Slampudi says. Stop drinking these drinks more than an hour before meals.
Iron is found in both animal and plant foods. Here we will introduce some of the main iron sources.
- fortified breakfast cereal1 serving: 18 mg.
- oystercooked, 3 oz: 8 mg.
- white beanscanned, 1 cup: 8 mg.
- lentilcooked, 1 cup: 6 mg.
- Tofufirm, 1 cup: 6 mg.
- beefTop Round, Cooked, 4 oz: 4 mg.
- potatogrilled, 1 medium with skin: 2 mg.
- pumpkin seeds1 oz: 2mg.
- tomato stewcanned, 1/2 cup: 2 mg.
- breadwhite or whole wheat, 1 slice: 1 mg.
- chickenroasted, 4 oz: 1 mg.
Should I take iron supplements?
Given this information, you may want to take iron supplements as insurance. Don’t do that without talking to your doctor, says Cromwell. There are other types of anemia, and supplements can mask the symptoms of iron deficiency anemia. This can delay diagnosis of the medical problem causing your iron deficiency.
In addition, the body retains iron, so it is possible to consume too much.a A 2001 study published in the American Journal of Clinical Nutrition Thirteen percent of white Americans between the ages of 67 and 96 were found to have iron levels that were too high, in part due to supplement intake. Cromwell says overdosing on minerals can cause gastrointestinal problems such as cramps and nausea.
And in the long term, iron can accumulate and have negative effects on organs where iron is stored, such as the liver and heart. Research has linked iron overload to an increased risk of type 2 diabetes, certain heart diseases, and cancer.
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