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Too much iron may increase the risk of strokes

The risk of having a stroke — particularly the kind that results from a blood clot or other obstacle traveling from the heart — appears to be greater in people who have higher levels of iron, according to recent research.

New research finds a link between increased levels of iron and the risk of having certain strokes.

Scientists from Imperial College London in the United Kingdom examined stroke risk in people for whom they had information on their levels of iron and whether they had genetic differences that altered their iron status.

This yielded evidence suggesting that those with “genetically determined higher” iron levels were at greater risk of having a stroke, they note in a report on the study that now features in the journal Stroke.

In addition, it seems “that this effect is driven by an increased risk of cardioembolic stroke,” a type of stroke in which blood in a vessel supplying the brain is blocked due to an obstruction that has traveled from the heart.

The study authors caution, however, that people should not use these findings as a reason to try to alter their iron levels, and they call for further research to confirm their results and also find out why iron may have this effect.

“This is an early-stage finding,” notes lead study author Dr. Dipender Gill, from the School of Public Health at Imperial College London, “and we would certainly not recommend that patients at risk of stroke reduce their iron intake, as it has many crucial roles in the body.”

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