Heart Health

Iron for Heart Health: Why It’s Important & How To Maintain It

Iron rich foods include salmon and spinach

In the mid 1930’s, American cartoonist Elzie Crisler Segar (known as E.C Segar), created one of the world’s most well-known cartoon characters, Popeye the Sailor. Everyone who remembers the famous comics and television cartoon knows that one of Popeye’s biggest traits was his love for spinach. For those unaware, spinach is a huge source of iron, and the writers purposely chose spinach to be Popeye’s main food source as a muscle booster and energizer. It’s difficult to forget the classic animation sequence of Popeye’s immediate adrenaline rush, gulping a whole can of spinach and subsequently growing a pair of muscles. This was done strategically by the animation studio to demonstrate the health effects of spinach, but it turns out that this was false data. While German chemist Erich von Wolf was calculating the amount of iron in spinach, he accidentally misplaced a decimal point, claiming that spinach contained 35 milligrams per 100 grams of iron rather than 3.5 milligrams. With that being said, iron unfortunately does not have muscle enlargement capabilities, although it does have quite a few other health benefits, especially for the cardiovascular system.

What is Iron?

Iron is found in red blood cells. The body uses it for muscle endurance, immunity boosts, red blood cell creation and producing hemoglobin to help deliver oxygen to other parts of the system through the bloodstream, and sending myoglobin to the muscles. Hemoglobin is extremely vital in preventing potential heart conditions, irregular heartbeats, hypertension, high cholesterol and anemia.

Iron’s Effect on the Heart

There are many studies that show that managing proper iron levels plays a huge role in the prevention of cardiovascular disease. Those who lack a healthy amount of red blood cells are at a much higher risk of developing heart failure. A condition called anemia is a blood disorder in which low hemoglobin levels are found in the bloodstream. Over a long period of time, this causes the heart to work harder in order to pump blood and oxygen throughout the body. It can also lead to shortness of breath, irregular heartbeats, angina, and chronic fatigue.

Thankfully, this condition is very treatable, especially if it’s caught early enough. Since they suffer from iron deficiencies, anemics are often encouraged to increase the iron in their diets or take iron supplements. Everyday Health claimed that “73% of people with both heart failure and anemia had an iron deficiency, indicating that it may have played a role in the development of heart disease”¹. They also quoted a separate 2017 study by Acta Cardiologica, who discovered that people with heart failure all had a common inadequate amount of iron in their blood, were generally worse in exercise performance, and had a higher hospitalization rate¹.

Managing Iron Levels

While it’s critical to have a healthy amount of iron in the body, too much of it can lead to complications. Ironically, while iron is a huge asset to the heart, it can also pose as a huge medical hazard, as too much iron can potentially cause high blood sugar, narrowing of arteries, blood clots, strokes, or even increase the risk of cardiovascular disease or cardiac arrest. It’s important to note that our bodies generate iron themselves, so unless instructed by a practitioner, iron supplementation is not a necessity for many. For those who are anemic, it’s essential to understand the right amount of dosage or iron portions that one is receiving on a daily basis and to frequently monitor one’s iron levels. Failure to do this can lead to drastic consequences such as iron toxicity or even cancer. Please speak with a LifeWorks practitioner about your condition and/or symptoms so that they can order a blood test to check your hemoglobin levels. If one is diagnosed with anemia, our practitioners will advise you on the proper dosage that is needed daily.

Foods that Contain Iron

Since iron supplements are not always necessary, people can access iron minerals through dietary sources. These foods include:

  • Spinach
  • Tofu
  • Lean Beef
  • Lean Poultry
  • Salmon
  • Cashews
  • Shellfish
  • Organ meats
  • Broccoli

While other foods such as garbanzo beans, black beans and whole grains are iron-rich foods, LifeWorks does not recommend them as they can cause inflammation within the body. All foods mentioned are in accordance with the Paleo Diet, a more natural dietary method.

Preventing Iron Deficiencies and Protecting the Heart

At LifeWorks Wellness Center, we assist our patients with treating cardiovascular disease, arrhythmia, hypertension, diabetes and high cholesterol. For those who suffer from the symptoms of anemia, we highly recommend to live a healthy and balanced lifestyle to keep iron levels up. If you are considering iron supplementation, our practitioners can provide the right guidance in managing your iron levels.

LifeWorks Wellness Center is located in the heart of Clearwater, Florida at 301 Turner Street. To schedule an appointment with one of our practitioners, please call 727-466-6789. If have you have further questions regarding our treatments for cardiovascular disease, please contact us.

Helpful Heart Health Resources

  • Heart Health - our complete page on heart health / cardiovascular treatment.