High Dietary Iron Associated with Increased MI Risk in Elderly

A diet that is high in heme iron, found mainly in meat and meat products, is associated with a greater risk of myocardial infarction, especially fatal MIs, in otherwise healthy elderly subjects living in the Netherlands. The authors note that the association between elevated levels of heme iron and MI in the presence of other risk factors is compatible with the hypothesis that iron plays a role in promoting LDL cholesterol oxidation. The investigators suggest that iron may enhance this process by catalyzing the production of oxygen free radicals, thereby increasing the risk of cardiovascular disease.

Am J Epidemiol 1999;149:421-8

COMMENT: A simple lab test that can be done to determine if you have too much iron in your body is a serum ferritin level. Normally this is used to screen for iron deficiency as levels below 20 indicate the need for some type of iron supplementation. However, levels over 100 are not healthy either. Generally, one can donate blood to reduce iron levels in these situations or have therapeutic phlebotomies to lower the iron. Ideally, the ferritin level should be between 20 and 80. Inflammatory conditions like rheumatoid arthritis, however, will falsely raise the level.

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