iron

Iron supplements in elderly

Iron is essential for the synthesis of red blood cells and adenosine triphosphate, or ATP, the body’s energy-storage molecule, but too much of it can be dangerous. The Linus Pauling Institute cautions that the elderly should not take iron supplements unless they have been recommended to do so by their physician.

Iron Function

Iron is needed to make hemoglobin, the part of the blood that carries oxygen throughout the body. Almost two-thirds of the iron in your body is in the hemoglobin, according to the National Institutes of Health’s Office of Dietary Supplements, or ODS. Without sufficient iron, the tissues and organs won’t get enough oxygen, which could lead to anemia. The symptoms of iron-deficiency anemia are fatigue and decreased immunity. If you don’t consume enough iron, you may feel tired and get sick more easily.

 

Recommended Daily Allowance

Adult men and women 51 years old or older should consume approximately 8 milligrams of iron each day .If they fail to meet this recommended daily intake, they may be more likely to become anemic or to suffer from recurrent infections. Most elderly people easily fulfill this requirement by regularly eating iron-rich foods like beef, chicken, seafood, legumes and iron-fortified cereals. However, older individuals who are vegans, strict vegetarians or serious athletes, or who have a digestive disorder like Crohn’s disease may become deficient in iron.

While women of childbearing age need 18 milligrams of iron daily, women over 50 need only 8 milligrams. It’s easy to get 8 milligrams of iron daily by eating a healthy diet. The ODS cautions that women over 50 shouldn’t take iron supplements unless prescribed by a doctor to avoid overloading on iron, which could potentially cause organ damage. The government’s upper tolerable limit for iron is 45 milligrams daily. As long as you don’t take iron supplements, getting too much iron shouldn’t be a concern.

Tolerable Upper Intake Level

The tolerable upper intake level, or UL, of iron at 45 milligrams per day for adults over 19 years old.If an elderly person whose diet is not deficient in iron takes iron supplements, he is more likely to go over the UL and may experience abdominal pain, lethargy, vomiting, diarrhea and possible damage to the nervous and digestive systems.

Elderly individuals with excessive high iron stores may experience more oxidative damage to brain tissue and may have a higher risk of neurodegenerative disorders like Parkinson’s disease and Alzheimer’s disease,

Iron Sources

Red meat, seafood and poultry are the best food sources of iron. Your body absorbs iron more easily from meat than from other foods, MayoClinic.com reports. Other good sources include beans, spinach, raisins, apricots, eggs and iron-fortified breakfast cereals. Vitamin C boosts iron absorption, and MayoClinic.com recommends having a glass of citrus juice, such as orange juice, when you eat iron-containing foods. Vegetarian women over 50 may have a tough time meeting the daily requirement of iron. If you avoid meat, chicken and eggs, you may want to ask a registered dietician to help you plan a healthy meal plan that contains enough iron.