Eating a well-balanced diet that includes iron-rich foods may help you prevent iron-deficiency anemia.
Taking iron supplements also may lower your risk for the condition if you're not able to get enough iron from food. Large amounts of iron can be harmful, so take iron supplements only as your doctor prescribes.
For more information about diet and supplements, go to "How Is Iron-Deficiency Anemia Treated?"
Infants and young children and women are the two groups at highest risk for iron-deficiency anemia. Special measures can help prevent the condition in these groups.
Infants and Young Children
A baby's diet can affect his or her risk for iron-deficiency anemia. For example, cow's milk is low in iron. For this and other reasons, cow's milk isn't recommended for babies in their first year. After the first year, you may need to limit the amount of cow's milk your baby drinks.
Also, babies need more iron as they grow and begin to eat solid foods. Talk with your child's doctor about a healthy diet and food choices that will help your child get enough iron.
Your child's doctor may recommend iron drops. However, giving a child too much iron can be harmful. Follow the doctor's instructions and keep iron supplements and vitamins away from children. Asking for child-proof packages for supplements can help prevent overdosing in children.
Because recent research supports concerns that iron deficiency during infancy and childhood can have long-lasting, negative effects on brain health, the American Academy of Pediatrics recommends testing all infants for anemia at 1 year of age.
Women and Girls
Women of childbearing age may be tested for iron-deficiency anemia, especially if they have:
- A history of iron-deficiency anemia
- Heavy blood loss during their monthly periods
- Other risk factors for iron-deficiency anemia
The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) has developed guidelines for who should be screened for iron deficiency, and how often:
- Girls aged 12 to 18 and women of childbearing age who are not pregnant: Every 5 to 10 years.
- Women who have risk factors for iron deficiency: Once a year.
- Pregnant women: At the first prenatal visit.
For pregnant women, medical care during pregnancy usually includes screening for anemia. Also, your doctor may prescribe iron supplements or advise you to eat more iron-rich foods. This not only will help you avoid iron-deficiency anemia, but also may lower your risk of having a low-birth-weight baby.
Living With and Managing Iron-Deficiency Anemia05/18/2011
This video—presented by the National Heart, Lung, and Blood Institute, part of the National Institutes of Health—shows how Susan, a full-time worker and student, has coped with having iron-deficiency anemia. Prior to her diagnosis, Susan had symptoms such as tiredness, poor skin tone, dizziness, and depression.
After her doctor diagnosed her with iron-deficiency anemia, Susan got counseling on how to improve her health and well-being. She began taking iron supplements and multivitamins to improve her iron levels. Susan also made changes to her diet, such as focusing more on green leafy vegetables, red meats, nuts, dried fruits, and beans. Other lifestyle changes, such as getting enough sleep and exercising, also have helped Susan feel better.
To further improve her condition, Susan had a minor surgical procedure to stop her monthly periods. By following her treatment plan and making smart lifestyle choices, Susan continues to feel better and see the benefits of treatment.
For more information about living with and managing iron-deficiency anemia, go to the Health Topics Iron-Deficiency Anemia article.