How does iron affect aging of the arteries?

Dr. Michael Roizen, MD
Internal Medicine
Iron appears to contribute to arterial aging. No one knows exactly how, but the theory is that because iron is an oxidant, it increases the oxidation of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) or bad cholesterol. When LDL cholesterol is oxidized, it becomes more likely to be incorporated into plaque, causing atherosclerosis. Some scientists have speculated that one of the reasons menstruating women have lower rates of cardiovascular disease is that they have lower levels of iron in their blood. One Finnish study showed that the rate of heart attacks doubled when the concentration of iron in the blood exceeded 220 mg/dl (milligrams per deciliter of blood). This risk was four times higher for patients who had both high iron levels and an LDL cholesterol reading of 190 mg/dl or higher. Other studies have been unable to confirm this link, and the claims about the connection have been strongly contested.

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