Vitamin B12 & Iron Deficiency & Elevated Cholesterol

Spinach
Spinach adds iron to your diet without harming your cholesterol levels. (Image: Irina Drazowa-Fischer/iStock/Getty Images)

About 1 in 30 adults older than 50 in the United States suffers from a vitamin B-12 deficiency, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. And high cholesterol affects more than 102 million Americans, according to the American Heart Association. Deficiencies in vitamin B-12 and iron may cause anemia and other problems. Elevated cholesterol levels increase your risk for heart attacks and strokes.

Vitamin B-12 Deficiency

If you’ve developed anemia because of a vitamin B-12 deficiency, symptoms may include fatigue, heart palpitations, shortness of breath and paleness. A vitamin B-12 deficiency can cause sadness, depression and other changes in personality as well as tingling in your arms and feet, balance and memory problems and loss of vision.

Some of the best food sources of vitamin B-12 -- beef liver and eggs, for example -- contain high amounts of dietary cholesterol. To treat a B-12 deficiency without further elevating your cholesterol levels, include fish, poultry and non-fat milk in your diet. You can also take B-12 supplements. The recommended daily allowance for B-12 ranges from 2.4 mcg to 2.8 mcg. You may need to take more to treat a deficiency. Supplements come in pills, shots and nasal gels.

Iron Deficiency

Iron deficiency can also cause anemia, an insufficient supply of hemoglobin -- the part of red blood cells that helps your cells get needed oxygen. Premenopausal women and people with malabsorption syndromes such as celiac disease may develop iron-deficiency anemia. Red meat and eggs provide ample iron, but if you’re looking for dietary sources that won’t elevate your cholesterol levels, try leafy green vegetables and iron-fortified foods such as breakfast cereals. You can also take iron supplements. It helps to take iron supplements on an empty stomach and with a glass of orange juice, as vitamin C helps you absorb iron.

Elevated Cholesterol

Your total cholesterol score includes the amount of low-density lipoprotein (LDL) and high-density lipoprotein (HDL) and the percentage of triglycerides in your bloodstream. Your total cholesterol should measure below 200 mg/dl -- milligrams per deciliter of blood. Aim to keep your LDL -- "bad" cholesterol -- below 130 mg/dl if you face additional risk for heart disease such as high blood pressure or diabetes. Healthy HDL -- "good" cholesterol -- measures at least 60 mg/dl. Your triglycerides, a type of fat that acts like LDL cholesterol in your bloodstream, should remain below 150 mg/dl. Diet and lifestyle changes can help improve your cholesterol levels, but you may also need to take medication.

Considerations

To reduce elevated cholesterol levels, shed extra pounds and reduce your consumption of dietary cholesterol and saturated fat. If you drink alcohol, limit intake to one or two drinks a day; if you smoke, stop. Exercise can help improve all of your cholesterol levels, but talk to your doctor before changing your level of physical activity. You may not feel up to strenuous activity until you've corrected your deficiencies in iron and vitamin B-12.

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