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Know Your Numbers: Iron

  • Category: Wellness
  • Posted On:
  • Written By: Rachel Wilde, PBT, CPT, MA
Know Your Numbers: Iron

According to WebMD: “Iron is an important component of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that carries oxygen from your lungs to transport it throughout your body. Hemoglobin represents about two-thirds of the body's iron. If you don't have enough iron, your body can't make enough healthy oxygen-carrying red blood cells.”

Low Iron is the most common deficiency in the United States and directly relates to how we feel. If our body doesn’t receive enough iron, our red blood cells are not able to successfully carry enough oxygen through our body and fatigue is the following result. This fatigue can be felt in the brain and the body! In addition, iron is essential in maintaining healthy cells, hair, skin and nails.

Women are most often affected by an iron deficiency, due to menstruation. Symptoms of low iron include paleness, feeling short of breath, a rapid heartbeat, cold hands and feet, brittle nails and hair loss, sores in the corner of the mouth, and a sore tongue. A severe iron deficiency can even cause difficulty swallowing.

Most people only absorb about 10% of the iron they consume. There are some though that absorb as much as 30% of the iron they take in, which relates to an inherited genetic condition called hemochromatosis. With this condition, iron is retained and deposited in the body and can cause other health problems in the liver, heart and pancreas, and ultimately cause cirrhosis, heart failure and diabetes. Some of the symptoms of high iron are similar to low iron, but also include stiff, achy joints, too.

Your physician should have you check your Iron levels at least every five years, as part of your annual physical. Iron should be evaluated periodically if you suffer from irritable bowel syndrome, Crohn’s disease, colitis or have other nutrient absorption problems. Genetic testing for hemochromatosis is recommended for first degree relatives of those who have the condition. Visit with your health care provider if you have concerns about your iron.

Interpreting iron results from a blood panel can be confusing, because you may see your iron, total iron binding capacity (TIBC), iron saturation index, and ferritin all listed. Visit with your health care provider if you have concerns about your iron. Or, visit www.cchwyo.org/results for some general information on understanding your blood results.

Campbell County Health Wellness offers Iron Panel blood screenings, Monday-Friday from 6-11 am at 1901 Energy Court, Suite 125, located behind Wendy’s and Common Cents. Your results can be faxed quickly to your physician and are mailed directly to your home in just a few days. Walk-ins are welcome! To learn more about Wellness, please visit www.cchwyo.org/Wellness or call 307.688.8051.

Rachel Wilde, PBT, CPT, MA, works at CCH Wellness as a Technician and Phlebotomist