Should I take iron supplements if I have heart failure?

Red iron supplements

I read about research that found giving an iron supplement to people with heart failure improved their condition. I’ve just been diagnosed with heart failure – should I take a supplement?

BHF dietitian Victoria Taylor says:

Iron is important for the formation of red blood cells that carry oxygen around the body. It also helps regulate processes within cells. A BHF research study, which is still going on, has shown that giving people with heart failure, iron intravenously (through a drip) can help them feel better and increase their exercise capacity in the short term. Many people with heart failure also have iron deficiency anaemia and finding out why this is could help improve the prognosis for heart failure patients in future.

If you are concerned about your iron status, speak to your doctor

We don’t know yet whether iron supplements would have the same benefit as the large doses of iron given in this study. Further research is currently in progress, looking at the effects of taking iron in other ways, including tablets.

Although taking extra vitamins and minerals might seem harmless, taking single nutrients without proper supervision from a health professional could have a negative impact on other health conditions, have a knock-on effect on other nutrients in your body or simply have no effect at all, giving you a false sense of security and wasting your money. Iron supplements can also have side effects, including constipation, diarrhoea, nausea and stomach pains.

If you are concerned about your iron status or feel that your symptoms are stopping you from eating a healthy balanced diet, speak to your doctor first. They can give you advice, or may refer you to a registered dietitian.

Victoria Taylor Meet the expert

Victoria Taylor is a registered dietitian with 20 years’ experience. Her work for the NHS focused on weight management and community programmes for the prevention of cardiovascular disease. She leads the BHF's work on nutrition.

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