Boost Your Iron - Before You Donate!

iron information graphicIt is important to increase your iron intake in the weeks before you donate. Low hematocrit or low hemoglobin are the most frequent reasons those wanting to donate are disqualified, and both are tested prior to blood donation. Low hematocrit or hemoglobin can be related to a low iron level. The great news is that it is usually temporary!

How to help your body absorb iron:

- Add fruits and vegetables high in Vitamin C. Vitamin C can enhance the iron absorption by as much as 20 times.
- Refrain from tea drinks since tannic acid can interfere with iron absorption.

Recommended daily dietary iron intake:
Females 19 to 50 - 18 mg
Females 50 and over - 8 mg
Males 19 and over - 8 mg

Depending on which location you visit, we will test hematocrit or hemoglobin. 

What is hematocrit?

Hematocrit is the percentage of blood volume that is red blood cells. According to the U.S. Food and Drug Administration (FDA), women must have a hematocrit of at least 38% and men a hematocrit of at least 39%. This is to protect donors from becoming anemic by donating blood.

What is hemoglobin?

Hemoglobin is a special protein inside red blood cells that carries oxygen. According to the FDA, to donate blood, men must have a hemoglobin of at least 13 g/dL (grams per deciliter) and women a hemoglobin of at least 12.5 g/dL. This is to protect donors from becoming anemic when they give blood.

Common reasons for low hematocrit or hemoglobin (a possible sign of low iron) are:
- A low-iron diet
- Menstrual blood loss
- A diet low in folate, vitamin B6 or B12

People with chronic illnesses such as arthritis, diabetes, and kidney disease may also have low readings. Some health conditions are not readily apparent but may cause a low hematocrit or hemoglobin and possible low iron levels in your body.

What can I do if my diet seems to be the only reason for my low hematocrit or hemoglobin?

Eat more of these high-iron foods:
- Red meat (especially liver), pork, chicken, turkey
- Fish and shellfish (oysters, clams, shrimp, scallops)
- Dried fruit (raisins, apricots, prunes, peaches)
- Green, leafy vegetables
- Beans, peas, nuts
- Iron-fortified breads and cereals

Eating foods rich in vitamin C (citrus fruits, broccoli and tomatoes) helps in iron absorption. Avoid drinking tea while eating high-iron foods.  Coffee, milk, fiber and soy protein may also block the absorption of iron. Over-the-counter iron supplements can be taken after consulting with a doctor to determine the exact cause of low hematocrit or hemoglobin.

Following these steps may help raise your percentage just a few points within just a few days. 


Bob Grant