Feeling tired as you get older may not simply be a normal part of the aging process. Instead, fatigue could be a symptom of iron-deficiency anemia, a treatable condition affecting 1 in 6 adults over the age of 65.
Iron-deficiency anemia occurs when the body lacks healthy red blood cells needed to transport enough oxygen throughout the body. The main cause of this condition is a lack of iron necessary for red blood cell production.
Several factors can contribute to iron deficiency in older adults. Gastrointestinal issues, such as the deterioration of stomach lining cells with age, can impair iron absorption from food. Certain medications, like those used to treat acid reflux, can also interfere with iron metabolism, increasing the risk of anemia. Even low-dose daily aspirin use has been associated with a 20 percent higher risk of anemia in older adults due to potential gastrointestinal bleeding and subsequent iron loss. Moreover, underlying health conditions including ulcers, colon polyps, and cancer can lead to internal bleeding and iron deficiency.
If you suspect iron deficiency or experience symptoms like fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, or cold extremities, it is crucial to consult with your healthcare provider before taking any action.
To meet daily iron requirements, men and women over 50 need 8 milligrams of iron. Research shows that most American adults fulfill this requirement through their diet. However, vegans and vegetarians may require up to 15 milligrams of iron because the body absorbs only a fraction of plant-based iron compared to the iron found in animal products. To enhance iron absorption from plant foods, it is recommended to consume them alongside vitamin C-rich foods like citrus fruits, tomatoes, bell peppers, and broccoli.
Among beverages, coffee and tea can inhibit iron absorption due to the presence of polyphenols that bind to iron, impeding its entry into the bloodstream. Therefore, it is advisable to refrain from consuming these drinks at least an hour before a meal.
Including iron-rich foods in your diet helps combat iron-deficiency anemia. Some top sources of iron include fortified breakfast cereals, oysters, white beans, lentils, tofu, beef, potatoes, pumpkin seeds, stewed tomatoes, bread, and chicken.
While it may be tempting to take iron supplements as a precautionary measure, it is vital to consult with a healthcare professional beforehand. Taking supplements without proper evaluation can mask symptoms of other types of anemia and delay the diagnosis of underlying medical conditions that may be causing iron deficiency. Furthermore, excess iron intake can result in digestive issues and long-term organ damage, leading to complications such as cramps, nausea, and an increased risk of conditions like Type 2 diabetes and certain heart diseases.
Iron-deficiency anemia is a common and treatable condition among older adults. By maintaining a balanced diet and consulting with healthcare professionals, individuals can effectively manage iron levels and improve overall well-being.
Frequently Asked Questions (FAQ)
What is iron-deficiency anemia?
Iron-deficiency anemia is a condition in which the body lacks sufficient healthy red blood cells to transport adequate oxygen throughout the body. It is commonly caused by a lack of iron necessary for red blood cell production.
What are the symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia?
Symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia include fatigue, dizziness, shortness of breath, and cold hands or feet.
What causes iron-deficiency anemia in older adults?
Iron-deficiency anemia in older adults can be caused by gastrointestinal issues that hinder iron absorption, certain medications that interfere with iron metabolism, and underlying health conditions such as ulcers, colon polyps, and cancer that result in internal bleeding.
How can iron-deficiency anemia be treated?
The treatment for iron-deficiency anemia typically involves increasing iron intake through diet or supplements and managing any underlying health conditions that contribute to iron deficiency. However, it is important to consult with a healthcare provider for personalized advice and guidance.
(h/t Consumer Reports – ConsumerReports.org)