Anemia and heart disease may be more closely related than previously thought.
“Since the job of the heart is to supply blood to the rest of the body, if there is anemia, [then there is] decreased concentration of red blood cells,” Dr. Michael Goyfman, chief of cardiology and director of echocardiography at Northwell Long Island Jewish Forest Hills in New York, told The Epoch Times. “Then the heart may need to provide a larger volume of blood to meet the demands of the body, whether by pumping faster or harder.”
This may cause increased strain on the heart and could exacerbate some underlying heart conditions, Dr. Goyfman added.
Iron's Impact on Heart ProblemsAnemia, characterized by a scarcity of red blood cells or hemoglobin to carry oxygen to the body's tissues, often manifests through symptoms like fatigue and weakness.
- Cardiac hypertrophy (thickening of the heart muscle walls)
- Angina (heart pain)
- Multiorgan failure (a life-threatening complication if anemia is left untreated)
Risk Factors for AnemiaAnemia risk factors include poor diet, intestinal disorders, chronic diseases, and infections. However, women who are menstruating or pregnant and those with chronic medical conditions are at greatest risk for this condition. Anemia risk also increases with age.
Moreover, medications used in cancer treatment are known to cause myelosuppression. In this condition, the bone marrow decreases the production of various blood cells, including red blood cells, Dr. Goyfman said.
OTC Drugs That Increase Anemia RiskAspirin, a widely used medication, has been traditionally believed to reduce the risk of blood clots leading to heart attacks or strokes. Several surveys have found that more than 20 percent of Americans aged 40 and over take low-dose aspirin on a daily basis.
The daily aspirin group had a 20 percent higher likelihood of developing anemia within five years than the placebo group.
People taking aspirin had slightly lower levels of hemoglobin.
Can Maintaining High Iron Levels Reduce the Risk of Heart Disease?While an association between heart failure and anemia exists, “it is uncertain if there is actually any causal relationship between the two,” Dr. Goyfman said. It's also unclear whether anemia is just a marker of poor health in heart failure patients.
Iron deficiency is a fixable risk factor for anemia, but the question remains: Can increasing dietary iron levels reduce the associated heart risk?
There is currently no evidence demonstrating improved outcomes in heart disease patients by maintaining higher iron levels, according to Dr. Goyfman. “Physicians should therefore treat anemia as recommended by current guidelines until further evidence comes out,” he said.
The recommended daily allowance of iron for adults varies depending on age and sex. NIH recommends that men aged 19 to over 50 need approximately 8 milligrams per day, and women aged 19 to 50 require around 18 milligrams per day, with higher amounts (27 milligrams) for those who are pregnant. Women who are breastfeeding need about 9 milligrams a day.