Scientists belonging to Imperial College London in the UK examined the risk of stroke. The researchers were well aware of the iron levels of each of these participants. Moreover, they also checked if any of these participants suffered from genetic differences that altered their body iron.
The results suggested that those with genetically determined high levels of iron had an increased risk of stroke. These results are present in a report which now features in the journal named Stroke
In addition to this, the scientists found that the driving factor of this effect was an increase in the risk for cardioembolic stroke. This is a type of stroke in which the vessels supplying your brain get blocked. The blockage occurs mainly occurs secondary to the obstruction coming from the heart.
The authors of this study caution the people that these findings should not provoke people to check their iron levels. People should, in fact, wait for further research before confirming their results. It is also necessary to wait in order to find out why iron is causing this effect.
The lead researcher of this study considers this as an early-stage finding. He specifically asks people not to reduce their total iron intake just because it elevates the risk of stroke. This is because iron serves many important functions inside your body.
Cardioembolic Stroke and the Role of Iron Status
As per the World Health Organization (WHO), almost 15 million people suffer from a stroke every year. Of these 15 million, 5 million of the people die. Another 5 million become disabled for the rest of their lives.
In the United States alone, more than 795,000 people suffer from a stroke every year. Of it, almost 140,000 people die. This means that 1 out of every 20 people die of stroke every year.
The majority of stroke cases are of the ischemic type. This type of stroke occurs because of a blockage in the blood vessel. This causes an impairment of the oxygen and nutrients in reaching the affected area of the brain.
A cardioembolic stroke makes up for a significant proportion of ischemic strokes. Researchers also associate it with another heart condition called atrial fibrillation. In this condition, the heart beats become irregularly faster than normal.
Iron serves a lot of roles in your body. One of the main functions of iron is to carry the oxygen in red blood cells.
The link between iron and risk of stroke have been a highlight for some time. Many researchers attempted to investigate it but the results were always conflicting.
For example, some studies linked the low levels of iron with reduced risk of stroke. On the other hand, some tied it with high levels of iron. Some studies were not able to establish a link at all.
Genetically Driven Iron Status
The researchers of this study decided to carry out further investigations. This is mainly because other studies suggested how iron could trigger blood clots to form.
The first part of their investigations involved knowing the genetic differences influencing the levels of iron. This is what you know as the iron status.
The researchers investigated using public data sources and took information for more than 48,000 people.
Then, they used a technique, the Mendelian randomization, to identify 3 single-letter alterations or the single nucleotide polymorphisms (SNPs) in their DNA. These SNPs were able to reduce or increase the iron status of a person.
They used these SNPs for screening another dataset which covered over 60,000 patients of stroke. They found that individuals with SNPs who can raise their iron levels were more prone to cardioembolic stroke.
These findings signify the potential treatments that may help reduce the risk of stroke.