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I feel tired all the time; will iron pills help?

Posted Oct 01 2008 8:12pm

You should not take iron pills without a specific diagnosis. Several studies have shown that iron deficiency can be healthful. Before the bad LDL cholesterol can form plaques in arteries, it must be converted to oxidized LDL and iron causes this reaction. Lack of iron reduces your chances of forming plaques in your arteries and suffering heart attacks and strokes.

Less than 50 percent of the iron in your body is in your red blood cells. Most iron is in your iron reserves in your liver, spleen and other tissues. Your body needs iron to make red blood cells and if your body does not contain enough iron, you will become anemic, but you will not become anemic until you have depleted all your iron reserves. You can be iron deficient but not anemic when you have an adequate supply of red blood cells, but no iron reserves. Iron deficiency does not make you tired unless you are also anemic, but it can tire athletes exercising at their maximum.

Blood iron levels are parts of routine blood tests. If your blood iron levels are low and you are not anemic, you need a special test called ferritin to measure iron reserves. If your ferritin is low, your doctor will look for a source of bleeding such as heavy menstruation or through your intestinal tract. If no serious source is found, you need no treatment unless you are a highly competitive athlete.

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