According to a new study, if you are low in iron, you may be at greater risk for having a stroke.
While previous research had established that there is some sort of connection between low iron and stroke risk, it was unclear just how a lack of iron might contribute to this condition’s occurrence. New research has found a possible explanation.
According to the researchers at the Imperial College London, the reason for this increased stroke risk lies in the fact that people who are deficient in iron have stickier platelets. Platelets are a type of blood cell which stick together in order to help with blood clotting. When they become stickier, this can lead to blood clots, which can potentially travel to the brain and block the flow of blood causing a stroke.
To arrive at the conclusion that low iron can affect stroke risk, the team examined data from almost 500 individuals who had a rare genetic disease called haemorrhagic telangiectasia, which causes enlarged blood vessels in the lungs. These people, who were being treated by a specialist at Hammersmith Hospital, were chosen because usually the lungs’ blood vessels are small enough to filter out clots and not allow them to travel into the arteries, the blood vessels exiting the lungs carrying oxygen-enriched blood to the brain and body. With their larger-than-normal blood vessels, however, clots are able to get through and potentially cause a stroke.
What the research team found that even those with moderately low levels of the mineral had two times greater risk of having a stroke than those in the moderate to normal range
Dr. Claire Shovlin, of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, commented on the study in a news release stating that it is believed that since low iron makes platelets more sticky, this is how it can increase stroke risk. However, she notes, more research is still needed to prove this theory
Shovlin further notes that since there are several steps in between the formation of a blood clot and the occurrence of a stroke, it is still unclear just how significant a role that sticky platelets due to low iron might play in the whole process. The next step, according to her, is to conduct tests to see if treating iron deficiency improves the outcome for high-risk patients.
According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, stroke is one of the leading causes of death in the United States, with more than 795,000 Americans having one each year and 130,000 of these people dying from it. Around 87 percent of all strokes are ischemic strokes, meaning that blood flow to the brain has been blocked, usually due to a blood clot
Iron deficiency is the most common nutritional deficiency in the U.S.
The study dealing with low iron and its relationship to stroke risk appeared in the February 19, 2014 issue of the medical journal PLoS One.
By Nancy Schimelpfening