Do You Really Need an Iron Supplement? Here’s How To Tell
As you get older, you probably start paying more attention to supplement ads and health products at the store. Iron is a big focus of many of these items. There are iron supplements, multivitamins with extra iron and foods fortified with iron. Do you need all that iron?
Why Iron Is Important for People of Every Age
Iron is essential for good health regardless of your lifestyle, interests, or age. Everyone needs iron, even kids. This mineral plays a major role in several areas of the body, such as muscle and brain development.
Iron is especially vital for creating hemoglobin, the “magnetic” part of red blood cells that carries oxygen through your blood. Oxygen is your body’s fuel. Without it, you run out of energy quickly.
How To Tell You’re Running Low on Iron
If your body doesn’t have sufficient iron, your health starts to suffer. This condition is called anemia. Here are some warning signs that you’re running low:
Your muscles feel weak
Your body is tired or exhausted constantly
Your hands or feet are ice cold
You feel lightheaded or have dizzy spells frequently
You can’t seem to catch your breath and your heart races
You get lots of headaches
All of these things happen because your cells aren’t getting enough oxygen. Your body isn’t producing enough red blood cells because it doesn’t have sufficient iron to work with.
Who Needs More Iron
Should you take iron supplements? The answer depends on your diet, overall health and age. Some people should pay special attention to their iron levels:
Women: Up to age 50, women need a much higher amount of daily iron than men — over double!
Pregnant or breastfeeding mothers: Babies absorb iron from their moms, so both need extra.
Vegetarians and vegans: Plant foods have a type of iron, but the body has trouble processing it. Taking iron supplements long-term can be essential.
People who have gastrointestinal problems: Many GI conditions, including ulcers and celiac disease, make it hard to absorb iron from your diet. Your doctor may recommend iron supplements to help.
Older adults: As you get older, you may eat fewer or smaller meals, which can lower your normal iron intake.
Where To Get Iron
There are several options for boosting your iron levels. For mild cases of anemia, fatigue or tiredness, you can focus on getting more iron from your diet:
Lean protein, including chicken, turkey, pork and beef
Fish and seafood (oysters are very high in iron)
Lentils, beans and peas
Nuts and seeds
Cereal fortified with iron
Fortified bread and pasta
Severe iron deficiency is generally treated with supplements because they get the job done more quickly.
Why Take Iron Supplements
Put simply, you should aim to get more iron if your body has a deficiency. According to statistics in the U.S., only about 2% of men have anemia, but 20–30% of women do.
Some people simply can’t get enough iron from diet alone. They may have to avoid beef or chicken because of kidney stones or heart disease. Vegans and vegetarians often need extra iron.
In these cases, iron supplements are amazing. Upping your iron is so simple, but it makes a huge difference. Feel more energized and stay active every day!