Women: Do You Know the Signs of an Iron Deficiency?

By March 1, 2013Healthy Aging

For women, developing low iron levels is a much greater risk than for men. Around one out of five women in America has low iron. Sometimes the signs of iron deficiency are so mild that it goes completely unnoticed…until there are real complications of the condition. Over time, as your body is deprived of the iron it needs, the iron reserves are depleted. It’s extremely vital to be able to recognize all of the signs of iron deficiency in order to treat the condition immediately.


What are the Symptoms?


There are multiple symptoms associated with low iron levels. These include the following:


  • Extreme Fatigue
  • Overall Weakness
  • Shortness of Breath
  • Dizziness
  • Mood Swings
  • Irritability
  • Consistent Headaches
  • Inconsistent Body Temperatures
  • Cold Feet and Hands
  • Pale Skin
  • Brittle Nails
  • Inflamed/Sore/Beefy Tongue
  • Rapid Heart Rate


In addition to the symptoms above, some women may also experience restless legs syndrome. This condition causes uncontrollable movements of the legs and a constant urge to move around. Women may also complain of a weak appetite or an urge to eat unusual non-food items (a condition known as pica) such as dirt or toilet paper.


What are the Risk Factors?


Although aging is not a process that increases the body’s need for iron, there are certain factors that can actually increase the risk of developing an iron deficiency in your older age. Those risks are:


  • A low intake of foods rich in vitamin C. These include oranges and other citrus fruits, red or green peppers, broccoli, potatoes, cabbage and cauliflower.
  • High intake of calcium
  • Low intake of heme iron. Heme iron is absorbed better and is found in animal foods like meat, poultry and fish.
  • Certain chronic diseases and conditions can affect iron status


Overall, the most common cause for an iron deficiency in senior women is blood loss in the stomach and intestines. Women who suffer with polyps, stomach/colon cancer, peptic ulcers, hiatal hernias, hemorrhoids, diverticulosis, anti-inflammatory drugs such as aspirin and frequent blood drawings can each play a role in the development of an iron deficiency for seniors. If you feel any of the above symptoms, or feel that you may have an iron depletion, it is imperative that you visit your physician or doctor for an immediate checkup and blood test.

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