Iron is an important dietary mineral that is involved in various bodily functions, including the transport of oxygen in the blood. This is essential in providing energy for daily life and iron deficiency results in depleting the iron stored within your body. This can lead to fatigue, tiredness and decreased immunity. According to the Institute of Medicine’s Food and Nutrition Board, healthy adult men and women 51 years old or older should consume approximately 8 milligrams of iron each day. Most elderly people easily fulfill this requirement by regularly eating iron-rich foods like beef, chicken, seafood, legumes and iron fortified cereals.
Unless you are diagnosed with an iron deficiency, adding an iron supplement is not a good idea. Non-prescription iron supplements are not regulated by the U.S. Food and Drug Administration and are not checked for safety and purity. Taking iron supplements when you have not been diagnosed with low iron can interfere with the proper function of several medications. These include cholesterol-lowering drugs, antacids, and antibiotics like ciprofloxacin and anti-inflammatory drugs. If needed, your physician can best advise what’s required to help with any iron deficiency you may have.
I personally suffer from severe anemia, and as a result, I have very low iron. I have found that when my iron is low, I become very tired, and symptoms include headache and weakness. While on vacation in the Bahamas a few years ago, doing nothing more than laying on the beach, I became unusually weak and unable to really move. One of the ladies I was traveling with immediately gave me an ice water, and although it did help a bit, I was still very weak. After drinking another water, I finally felt like I could get up and move around some. I found shade and a spinach salad at the beach café, and finally felt like myself again.
Once back at home I scheduled an appointment with my primary care physician. After having blood work done, I was told I needed a blood transfusion, my iron levels were dangerously low, and I could possibly need an iron fusion as well. After two pints of blood I was able to skip the iron fusion, but learned I would need to be on a prescription iron tablet for 6 months. From that point, I knew that it was vital that I also increase my intake of iron-enriched foods in my daily diet. After a year, I was able to discontinue the iron supplements and manage my iron by including lots of iron rich foods daily in my diet.
When iron deficiency is present in older adults, it is likely due to some underlying condition that requires further testing to find out the exact reason for the deficiency. If you begin to notice yourself being tired, weak or that your cognitive ability has decreased, it wouldn’t hurt to make an appointment to have a check-up to rule out any conditions that could affect your ability to shine daily.