What is iron?

Iron is a mineral in the human body. It is one of the components of hemoglobin, the substance in red blood cells that helps blood carry oxygen throughout the body.

If you do not have enough iron, your body cannot make hemoglobin. If this happens, you may develop anemia, a disorder that occurs when there is not enough hemoglobin in the blood. When you develop anemia, you are said to be “anemic.”

What are the causes of anemia?

The most common cause of anemia is low levels of iron. This is known as iron-deficiency anemia, the most common type. Anyone can develop iron-deficiency anemia, although the following groups have a greater risk:

  • Women, because of blood loss during monthly periods and childbirth
  • People over 65, who are more likely to have diets that are low in iron
  • People who are on blood thinners such as aspirin, Plavix®, Coumadin® or heparin
  • People who have kidney failure (especially if they are on dialysis), because they have trouble making red blood cells
  • People who have trouble absorbing iron

Last reviewed by a Cleveland Clinic medical professional on 10/26/2017.


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