Iron levels: Less isn’t always more

Iron levels: Less isn’t always more

Vincent Comtois
Did you know that women who still have their period are 50% less likely to die from heart disease than men or menopausal women?
A mega-study conducted in Framingham, Massachusetts followed the health of 2,873 women over 24 years. The study found that women who did not smoke or take oral contraceptives did not suffer from heart disease. Not a single woman in 24 years was affected by it!
But for women who smoked or took oral contraceptives, their risk of heart disease before menopause rose by 20 to 30%. Did you also know that oral contraceptives increase a woman’s hepatic coagulation factors* and her risk of having a stroke?
The Framingham Heart Study hypothesizes that, once menstruation stops, iron starts accumulating in the blood and liver (ferritin). So hemochromatosis occurs more frequently, increasing the risk of cardiovascular and cerebrovascular diseases.
The researchers found that women who have undergone a hysterectomy (the removal of the uterus)—regardless of whether their ovaries were removed or not—were three times more likely to have heart disease than women who still had their uterus and regular periods. The results stemming from a meta-analysis that looked at seven epidemiological studies indicate that there is a clear correlation between high blood iron levels and increased risks of heart disease.
Losing blood on a regular basis improves blood flow and decreases the risk of heart disease. Regular monthly periods (of approximately 50 to 100 millilitres) lessen coagulation factors and packed cell volume (hematocrit), as well as inflammatory factors such as sedimentation. One of the benefits of menstruation is that 80 to 85% of women’s red blood cells are replaced every year. A woman’s blood is full of fresh, toxin-free red blood cells!
Men’s red blood cells, however, are removed by the spleen every 100 to 120 days. Cell disposal releases hemoglobin into the bloodstream, thereby decreasing the production of nitric acid, which is essential for the dilation of blood vessels. As a result, blood pressure increases.
It follows that, unless a man is George Saint-Pierre’s workout partner, his ferritin level is probably too high. Most physicians agree that ferritin levels between 22 and 375 ug/L are considered normal but, in reality, functional levels range closer to 100–150 ug/L. In either case, rates above the normal range would be regarded as excessive. So, Ladies, when your next period arrives, rejoice!
Men and menopausal women, do not despair! All is not lost. Donate blood twice a year to get the same benefits as menstruating women. Or maybe sign up for a kickboxing class?
It turns out that giving blood is not an entirely altruistic gesture after all. By donating blood, you’re saving the lives of several other people, but you’re also lengthening your own!
Throughout the Middle Ages, physicians would prescribe bloodletting to heal patients’ chronic diseases. Admittedly, the practice was barbaric, but it possibly saved as many lives as it took!
Here’s to your health,
*Increases in the VII, VIII and X factors and fibrinogen levels.

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