Study shows link between iron levels and heart disease risk

By Rebecca Burton • Published: October 17th, 2017
Category: Health in a Heartbeat

In the U.S., about 610,000 people die from cardiovascular disease annually. High blood pressure, smoking and obesity are some of the most common risk factors. Scientists have also learned that iron deficiency can increase the risk of heart disease. But new research has shown that iron might also protect against heart problems, inspiring new treatment options.

A study published in the journal Arteriosclerosis, Thrombosis and Vascular Biology examined the link between levels of iron in the body and the risk of developing coronary artery disease, the most common form of cardiovascular disease. The study showed higher iron levels in the body can reduce the risk of developing coronary artery disease, giving hope that future treatment may come in the form of iron supplements.

To conduct the study, a team of researchers from Imperial College London and University College London analyzed genetic data from more than 48,000 people. They specifically examined single-nucleotide polymorphisms, a type of biological marker that can help doctors find genetic locations for certain diseases as well as iron levels in the body.

The lead author explains that scientists have known iron deficiency increases heart disease risk, but until now they didn’t know if iron supplements could be used as a treatment. To validate these results, future studies will involve giving patients iron supplements in a clinical trial to see if additional iron levels can protect against coronary artery disease.

In the meantime, if you want to reduce your heart disease risk, there are several iron-rich foods you can include in your diet, such as spinach, clams, cooked beef and salmon.