- The study included 12,164 individuals from three European population-based cohorts.
- The median age was 59 years and 55% were women. During the baseline study visit, cardiovascular risk factors and comorbidities such as smoking, obesity, diabetes and cholesterol were assessed via a thorough clinical assessment including blood samples.
- Participants were classified as iron deficient or not according to two definitions: 1) absolute iron deficiency, which only includes stored iron (ferritin); and 2) functional iron deficiency, which includes iron in storage (ferritin) and iron in circulation for use by the body (transferrin).
Dr. Schrage explained: "Absolute iron deficiency is the traditional way of assessing iron status but it misses circulating iron. The functional definition is more accurate as it includes both measures and picks up those with sufficient stores but not enough in circulation for the body to work properly."
"The study showed that iron deficiency was highly prevalent in this middle-aged population, with nearly two-thirds having functional iron deficiency," said Dr. Schrage. "These individuals were more likely to develop heart disease and were also more likely to die during the next 13 years."
Dr. Schrage noted that future studies should examine these associations in younger and non-European cohorts. He said: "If the relationships are confirmed, the next step would be a randomised trial investigating the effect of treating iron deficiency in the general population."
To read the article: Iron deficiency in middle age is linked with higher risk of developing heart disease