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Iron deficiency raises stroke risk?

According to a new study just published in the medical journal PLOS ONE, an iron deficiency in one’s bloodstream—due to diseases that influence iron levels or just a lack of iron in one’s diet—is a risk factor for stroke in both adults and children.  Researchers from Imperial College London, England who knew from prior studies iron deficiency is linked with stroke were determined to discover why.

Their research revealed that when someone is iron deficient, small blood cells called platelets are more apt to stick together. This then initiates blood clotting which can lead to Ischemic stroke.  Ischaemic stroke occurs when a blood clot moves to the brain and interrupts the flow of blood in the artery.

iron deficiency

“Sticky”Platelets

Then brain cells die.  Early indications of stroke include such symptoms as sudden weakness or numbness (often on one side of the body), difficulty speaking, sudden confusion, loss of balance and sudden vision troubles.  If a stroke is severe enough, one’s ability to freely move, speak or even remember could be permanently affected.

The research team also noted that anemia, pregnancy and even over consumption of antacids can adversely affect iron levels in the blood by preventing the absorption of iron.  Iron is a nutrient that is not manufactured by the body so it is very important to ensure that one’s diet includes iron-rich foods.  Good sources of iron include: beans and lentils, dark leafy greens, egg yolks, iron-fortified cereal and reed meat.  Experts also suggest the inclusion of vitamin C as well since it aids in the absorption of iron.

Dr. Claire Shovlin, of the National Heart and Lung Institute at Imperial College London, reported: “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.  “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.”

Shovlin added: “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.  We would certainly encourage more studies to investigate this link.”

(Image courtesy of Dr.JohnTafel)

About Will Phoenix

W. Scott Phoenix, B.A., B.S. was born in Hawaii, raised in Pennsylvania and resides in California. He has been a published writer since 1978. His work has appeared (under various names) in numerous places in print and online including Examiner.com. He is a single parent of three children and has also worked as an actor, singer and teacher. He has been employed by such publications as the Daily Collegian and the Los Angeles Times.