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J Vasc Nurs. 2000 Dec;18(4):109-14; quiz 115-6.

Role of stored iron in atherosclerosis.

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Research Department (151), Department of Veterans Affairs, Veterans Dr, White River Junction, VT 05009, USA.


Myocardial infarction remains the No. 1 killer of American men and women, with a death rate of 225,000 per year, and stroke, the third leading cause of death in the United States, afflicts about 600,000 per year. The combined financial burden of these diseases is approximately $134 billion per year. Therefore, interventions that reduce mortality and suffering will have a significant impact on the health care system. This article summarizes research conducted during the last 2 decades that addresses the idea that stored iron plays a role in the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis and that iron reduction through phlebotomy may play a role in the treatment or prevention of atherosclerosis. Body iron stores rise after adolescence in men and menopause in women. This rise has been linked to the pathogenesis of atherosclerosis through iron-induced oxidation of low-density lipids and foam cell formation. However, the available evidence on the iron hypothesis remains circumstantial. Reduction of body iron stores in the setting of a controlled, prospective intervention trial is necessary to determine whether the amount of stored iron is related to clinically meaningful vascular disease. Such a study is feasible because reduction in iron stores can be achieved safely and predictably without induction of iron deficiency by graded phlebotomy. The Iron and Atherosclerosis Study (FeAST), a Veteran's Administration Cooperative Study, is under way to test this concept.

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