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2023-08-01 23:14:39

Iron and Ferritin: Everything You Need to Know

Your body needs all sorts of vitamins, minerals, and other nutrients to function optimally. One such mineral is iron. In this blog, we're going to talk about what iron is, why it's so important, how to get more of it, and what your ferritin levels have to do with it.

What is Iron?

As we said, iron is a mineral. Your body needs it to make hemoglobin, which is a protein in healthy red blood cells. Hemoglobin carries oxygen from your lungs to all the other parts of your body. You also use iron to make another protein called myoglobin. This protein also helps get oxygen to the muscles.

Additionally, you need iron in order to make hormones, which are vital to our health and survival in numerous ways.

What are Normal Iron Levels?

To be clear, every individual is different. Some people might do better with slightly higher or lower iron stored in their bodies. However, very broadly speaking, the normal range for iron is around 70-175 mcg/DL (micrograms per deciliter) for men and 50-170 mcg/DL for women.

What Do Low Iron Levels Mean?

Did you know that around 1.5-2 billion people around the world are dealing with iron deficiency?

A lack of iron leading to a low blood count is called iron deficiency anemia. If your iron stores are low, it means that your blood doesn't have enough healthy red blood cells. Symptoms of iron deficiency can include fatigue, weakness, cold hands and feet, lightheadedness, and brittle nails.

brittle nails from low iron and ferritin

Iron supplements can help with iron deficiency anemia — talk to your healthcare provider about checking your iron status via blood tests.

What Do High Iron Levels Mean?

When your body stores iron over time and allows it to build up, you can develop a condition called hemochromatosis, also known as iron overload. Symptoms include fatigue, weight loss, joint pain, irregular periods, erectile dysfunction, and mood/cognitive issues. This condition is inherited and can lead to liver disease, damage to the pancreas, and heart issues.

What is Ferritin?

Now, let's get to ferritin! Ferritin is a protein that stores iron. This is important because if you suspect that you have too much iron or iron deficiency anemia, then your healthcare provider will run a ferritin blood test. Since ferritin stores iron, your ferritin test results provide insight into how much iron you have in your body and whether it's the appropriate amount for you.

What are Normal Ferritin Levels?

Again, remember that no two individuals are exactly alike. However, healthy ferritin levels are generally somewhere around 24-336 mcg/L (micrograms per liter) for men and 11-307 mcg/L for women. If your ferritin blood test measures something outside of the normal ferritin levels, it could be indicative of a greater health issue.

Also, note that different providers can interpret your results differently. For example, your blood test might indicate that your iron levels are within the healthy range. However, if you notice that your hair is thinning, a dermatologist might want to slightly increase the amount of iron in your body anyway!

woman playing with her hair

What we mean is that you can be within range but still not be in the optimal place for you.

It depends on how you feel, what your body is doing, and what you're trying to achieve.

What Do Low Ferritin Levels Mean?

You can interpret low and high ferritin levels the same way you'd interpret too much iron or an iron deficiency.

If your ferritin test measures a lack of iron, you might be dealing with an iron deficiency. Boosting your body's iron levels can come from consuming more dietary iron or using supplements.

What Do High Ferritin Levels Mean?

Elevated ferritin levels could point to iron overload. Reducing excess iron can come from diet and lifestyle changes. Certain prescription medications can also help stabilize your iron levels.

How Can I Increase My Ferritin Levels?

If you're looking to boost your ferritin levels and counter an iron deficiency, there are simple but effective things you can do right at home. Here are a few tips for increasing the amount of iron in your body:

dark chocolate and raspberries

How Can I Naturally Counteract Iron Overload?

Drinking milk or caffeinated beverages with food could adjust how much iron you have in your body. Since it interferes with absorption, it could help to lower the amount of iron and thus improve your ferritin level.

When Should I Call My Doctor?

If you think you're experiencing iron deficiency or suspected iron overload, call your healthcare provider immediately. They will likely take a blood sample so they can determine where your ferritin levels are at. As part of eNational's Complete Men's Health Panel, patients receive a ferritin blood test to look for normal ferritin levels, elevated ferritin, or iron deficiency.

If you are not in the normal range and are showing abnormal ferritin levels, then you'll have the chance to follow up with a clinician to discuss the potential next steps. This could mean boosting the ferritin and iron in your body to balance out an iron deficiency, improving your iron absorption, or decreasing the iron stored in your system.

##Do I Need Ongoing Ferritin Testing?

If your blood test indicates iron deficiency or excess iron, then your clinician might recommend another blood test in the near future. This is the only accurate way to determine what your iron levels are doing and if they're improving over time.

doctor reviewing blood test results

Get Your Ferritin Blood Test Today

Ferritin and iron play vital roles in your body. By providing a quick blood sample and taking a ferritin test, you can beat low iron (or an elevated ferritin level), and make it easier for your red blood cells to carry oxygen and nutrients throughout your body.

eNational Testing has more than 2,000 locations spread across the United States. You can order your ferritin test online in just a few clicks, and you don't even need to see your doctor first. Just find a testing center near you, order your lab tests, and show up to provide your blood sample! If you've ordered the Complete Men's Health Panel, the results of your blood tests will be sent to you in two to four business days.

With the appropriate blood tests, you can quickly learn why your iron stores aren't normal. If you think that your ferritin levels might be off, order your blood test with eNational Testing today.