Whether you are in your 20s or 30s, you can still be deficient in iron. If you feel lethargic and on the verge of fainting after a vigorous activity or throughout the day, you may have low iron levels in the body. 

Iron is an essential dietary mineral that participates in a wide variety of metabolic processes. This mineral is vital to the proper functioning of haemoglobin, a protein found in red blood cells needed to transport oxygen from the lungs to every part of the body. Additionally, your body also needs iron to preserve many vital functions, including general energy and focus, gastrointestinal processes, the immune system, production of hormones, and the regulation of body temperature. 

In this blog, learn about the health complications caused by an insufficient intake of iron or poor absorption of iron by the body.

What are the symptoms of iron deficiency?

If you have insufficient amounts of iron in the blood, you may not identify the symptoms of iron deficiency, as they can be so mild that it goes unnoticed. But as the body becomes more deficient in iron, the signs and symptoms intensify.

Low iron symptoms include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • General weakness
  • Shortness of breath, dizziness and light-headedness
  • Inability to concentrate and remember things
  • Poor performance at school or work
  • Repeated infections
  • Inflammation or soreness of tongue
  • Fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
  • Behavioural problems in children
  • Easily broken and brittle nails
  • Decrease in sex drive

Why should you take iron-deficiency seriously?

In milder cases of iron deficiency, a person is unlikely to have any complications. However, if left untreated, it can lead to the eventual development of anemia that can cause various health complications — and even death. Here are eight problems iron-deficiency anaemia can cause.

Cardiac problems

An irregular or fast heartbeat might be a symptom of iron deficient anaemia. When you’re anaemic, your blood has less oxygen, so your heart has to pump more blood to make up for it. This can lead to an enlarged heart or heart failure.

Complications during pregnancy

Severe iron deficiency anaemia during pregnancy can be dangerous for both mother and the baby. It has been associated with low birth weight, premature birth, and increased risk of death immediately before or after birth.

Development delays

In infants and children, severe iron deficiency can lead to delayed growth and developmental delays, such as late talking, walking, and behavioural problems, like trouble interacting with other kids and focusing on routine tasks. It also raises the chances of mild or moderate intellectual disability.

Weakened immune system

Additionally, iron deficiency anaemia is associated with an increased susceptibility to illness and infections in young children. The immune system needs iron to stay strong and ward off infections like the flu and colds. In actuality, high iron levels are necessary for T cells—a crucial type of immune cell—to aid in the defence against infections. Low iron prevents your T cells from functioning properly. Studies reveal that your body cannot mount an immunological defence against a vaccine if you have low iron levels at the time of administration. This reduces the vaccine’s effectiveness and makes it more difficult for you to fend against illnesses.

Poor physical performance in athletes

Several studies have investigated the importance of iron values for physical performance in runners, and other trained athletes. Major findings include that impaired iron levels in the body can be detrimental to athletic performance. As iron stores become severely depleted, it not only has a negative impact on performance, but also causes exercise intolerance and post-exercise iron management disorders.

Impaired cognitive function

Another major role of iron is to help your body make the molecules that are needed to make key brain chemicals. In particular, iron is crucial for the synthesis of the neuro-transmitters norepinephrine, dopamine, and serotonin, which are all critical for mental wellness. Studies indicate a link between symptoms of schizophrenia, anxiety, paranoia, and sadness and low iron levels. Multiple studies have shown improvements in mental health symptoms and thinking ability following iron supplementation.

Closing thoughts

When it comes to minerals, iron plays an extremely important role in regulating the overall bodily health. In the long run, being deficient in iron affects not only your physical health but your mind as well. Considering the documented serious consequences of iron-deficient anaemia, it is recommended to not to take this issue lightly. Get medical help at the earliest. 

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