Iron is necessary to make hemoglobin, the substance that carries oxygen through your blood to all the cells in your body. Hemoglobin is what makes red blood cells red. With insufficient iron, and therefore not enough hemoglobin, red blood cells become small and pale and don’t carry enough oxygen. You may have heard the phrase “tired blood.” This really means blood that is low in iron and that can’t carry enough oxygen to vital organs and muscles. “Tired blood” results in a tired body.
Iron is needed not only for blood, but also for brains. Neurotransmitters, the neurochemicals that carry messages from one nerve to another, require sufficient iron to function properly. A person with an iron deficiency may have a tired mind as well as a tired body.
Children and adults need different amounts of iron at different times in their lives. Rapid growth increases iron needs. So does iron loss. Here are some facts on iron needs at different ages and stages.