As we grow older, our body system changes. From the number of nutrients needed to strength and even absorption capabilities. This change makes us prone to iron deficiency as it becomes harder for our bodies to absorb and utilise iron effectively.
But this is no cause for alarm as maintaining a healthy iron level could solve the riddle. This article shows the relationship between old age and iron levels. Chewwies share helpful tips on how to curtail iron deficiency in old age.
Iron deficiency is a common health issue seen more among the elderly population. It is simply when the amount of iron in the body fails to meet demands. Low iron intake or the body's inability to absorb enough are the two primary causes.
Iron deficiency leads to severe consequences. Some include anaemia, cognitive problems, and worsening of already-existing health conditions.
Why are older people at risk of iron deficiency?
Elders are at higher risk of developing iron deficiency due to several factors. The likes of;
Inability to absorb iron
This is one of the primary causes of iron deficiency in old age. The body's ability to absorb iron decreases with age. Doctors blame this on reduced stomach acid production, which aids iron absorption.
Inadequate food intake
When elderly ones don't take healthy and nutritious diets, iron deficiency suffices. The difficulty in preparing healthy meals remains the primary cause of this poor food intake. Thus, they consume just any kind of diet.
Unhealthy ones are low in iron and other essential nutrients, leading to a deficiency.
Some health conditions
Chronic diseases could affect the level of iron in the body. Older adults may have a higher chance of developing health conditions that can lead to iron deficiency. Other conditions like kidney disease, heart failure and gastrointestinal tract bleeding can cause iron loss and iron deficiency.
These conditions can affect the absorption, transportation, and storage of iron in the body, leading to a deficiency.
Consequences of iron deficiency for the elderly population
While iron deficiency comes with unpleasant symptoms for everyone, it is more severe here. Some of these consequences include the following;
A serious health condition. Anaemia reduces the red blood cell count. It could result in fatigue, weakness, shortness of breath, dizziness, and cognitive problems.
Worsens other health conditions
Individuals with health conditions like heart disease and diabetes risk the diseases getting worse. This is because iron levels are critical for curtailing these diseases.
How to detect iron deficiency in old people
The typical signs of iron deficiency may not be in older people. Sometimes even when seen, it is dismissed as mere symptoms of ageing. This makes the diagnosis a bit tricky.
Hence, blood tests are perfect. It is an accurate way to detect iron deficiency. NHS advice detecting the deficiency on time as it can lead to serious damage if left untreated.
This is just as important for old ones as it is for kids. As identifying and preventing an iron deficiency could get tricky at times.
Prevention of iron deficiency in older adults
Here are some ways to do that amongst the elderly population;
A balanced and healthy diet
Consumption of iron-rich foods like red meat, poultry, seafood, legumes, and leafy green vegetables, is the best way to escape this deficiency. You can also consider taking iron supplements as it helps you meet the daily amount of iron required by your body.
Add vitamin C to iron-rich meals
Vitamin C aids the digestion of iron from plant sources. Hence, those who get a chunk of the nutrient should be sure to add vitamin C to their diets. This is especially important for vegans and vegetarians.
Vitamin C-rich foods, including citrus fruits, strawberries, and bell peppers, can also help enhance iron absorption.
Manage underlying health condition
Treating underlying health conditions affecting iron absorption can help prevent iron deficiency. For example, managing inflammatory bowel disease, chronic kidney disease, and heart failure helps prevent iron deficiency in older adults.
Use of good supplements
Iron supplements are recommended by doctors, to ensure adequate iron levels. Supplements studded with iron and vitamin C are the best to treat iron deficiency.
Limit intake of iron inhibitors
Some foods and beverages can inhibit iron absorption. Examples include tea, coffee, calcium-rich foods, and high-fibre foods. Limiting the intake of these foods and beverages boost iron absorption, kicking out the deficiency.
Regular medical checkups
Older adults should receive regular blood tests to monitor their iron levels and other essential nutrients. This keeps your iron levels inline and no underlying health conditions.
Iron deficiency can be prevented and treated through a balanced and healthy diet, iron supplements and sometimes vitamin D. But, it's essential to diagnose iron deficiency early to prevent severe health issues in old age.
Always consult a healthcare professional for guidance on maintaining adequate iron levels in old age.