Find Information About:

Drugs & Supplements

Get information and reviews on prescription drugs, over-the-counter medications, vitamins, and supplements. Search by name or medical condition.

Pill Identifier

Pill Identifier

Having trouble identifying your pills?

Enter the shape, color, or imprint of your prescription or OTC drug. Our pill identification tool will display pictures that you can compare to your pill.

Get Started
My Medicine

My Medicine

Save your medicine, check interactions, sign up for FDA alerts, create family profiles and more.

Get Started

WebMD Health Experts and Community

Talk to health experts and other people like you in WebMD's Communities. It's a safe forum where you can create or participate in support groups and discussions about health topics that interest you.

  • Second Opinion

    Second Opinion

    Read expert perspectives on popular health topics.

  • Community


    Connect with people like you, and get expert guidance on living a healthy life.

Got a health question? Get answers provided by leading organizations, doctors, and experts.

Get Answers

Sign up to receive WebMD's award-winning content delivered to your inbox.

Sign Up

Heart Disease Health Center

Font Size

Too Much Iron May Lead to Heart Attack

WebMD Health News
Reviewed by Gary D. Vogin, MD

Oct. 25, 2000 (Washington) -- As the level of iron goes up in your bloodstream, so apparently does your risk for heart attack and stroke. A new study by Japanese researchers shows that high-level iron injections can cause almost immediate constriction of blood vessels. In fact, the scientists believe the iron damage could be the first step in a cascade of events leading to the thickening and hardening of the arteries known as atherosclerosis.

"Our study shows that we should recognize iron as a risk factor," says Hidehiro Matsuoka, MD, PhD, lead researcher and chief of the Kurume University School of Medicine's hypertension program. The cardiologist presented his findings Wednesday at the 54th Annual Fall Conference of the American Heart Association's Council for High Blood Pressure Research.

The debate over iron's effect on heart disease has preoccupied doctors for years. A number of studies have suggested a link. Those who suffer from abnormally high levels of iron in the blood are believed to have an elevated risk for heart problems. But people who donate blood, depleting their iron levels in the process, may be less prone to heart attack.

However, the Japanese study apparently is the first to show that deliberately increasing a person's iron interferes with the lining of the blood vessels, called the endothelium. After giving 10 healthy young men a megadose of iron, the researchers used high-resolution ultrasonography to measure any impact on blood flow.

According to Matsuoka, the normal blood vessel dilation was reduced by as much as one-third by the experiment. It's not clear what causes the change, but it could be that the iron generates oxygen free radicals, which have been linked to both cancer and heart disease.

"Iron loading impairs endothelial function, mostly due to oxidative stress," Matsuoka tells WebMD. He says the change in vessel dilation can be detected in as little as 30 minutes during a physical exam.

To test his claims further, Matsuoka studied the effects of reducing iron levels. He gave healthy smokers a chemical used to remove heavy metals from the blood. Smoking, as well as high blood pressure and age, can increase free-radical damage. The smokers experienced about a 30% drop in blood iron following the treatment, and their blood vessels began working normally.

Today on WebMD

x-ray of human heart
A visual guide.
atrial fibrillation
Symptoms and causes.
heart rate graph
10 things to never do.
heart rate
Get the facts.
empty football helmet
red wine
eating blueberries
Simple Steps to Lower Cholesterol
Inside A Heart Attack
Omega 3 Sources
Salt Shockers
lowering blood pressure