iron levels can raise your risk of stroke by making your blood more sticky,
a new study indicates.
Investigators looked at data from nearly
500 people with a rare hereditary disease that causes them to have enlarged
blood vessels in the lungs. Typically, blood vessels in the lungs don't allow
clots to enter the arteries. But in these patients, clots can escape the lungs,
travel to the brain and cause a stroke.
Those who had an iron
deficiency had stickier platelets – which are small blood cells that
trigger clotting when they stick together – and were more likely to suffer a
stroke, according to the researchers at Imperial College London in the UK.
Even those with moderately low iron levels
were about twice as likely to suffer a stroke as those with iron levels in the
middle of the normal range, according to the study published in the
journal PLoS One.
and treat iron-deficiency
2 billion people affected
The researchers noted that many people have
other types of conditions that let blood clots bypass the lung's filtering
system, and they added that their findings could eventually help with stroke
Iron deficiency affects about 2 billion
people worldwide, and recent research has shown that it may be a risk factor
for stroke, but how iron deficiency could boost stroke risk was unknown.
"Since platelets in the blood stick
together more if you are short of iron, we think this may explain why being
short of iron can lead to strokes, though much more research will be needed to
prove this link," Dr Claire Shovlin, from the National Heart and Lung
Institute at Imperial College London, said in a college news release.
The next step
"The next step is to test whether we
can reduce high-risk patients' chances of having a stroke by treating their
iron deficiency. We will be able to look at whether their platelets become less
sticky," Shovlin said.
"There are many additional steps from
a clot blocking a blood vessel to the final stroke developing, so it is still
unclear just how important sticky platelets are to the overall process,"
she added. "We would certainly encourage more studies to investigate this
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