Most Americans get enough iron from food, especially red meat, fortified grains and leafy vegetables.

Exceptions: People who have had blood loss from surgery or accidents...most pregnant or breast-feeding women...women who have heavy menstrual periods.

Caution: Even if you fall into one of these categories, don't take supplements that contain iron-including multivitamin/mineral supplements-until you have been tested for hemochromatosis (iron overload).

Reason: Excess iron exacerbates this hereditary condition and can lead to cirrhosis of the liver, heart failure, etc. A serum ferritin test can best measure the body's iron stores. In men, normal serum ferritin should be 20 to 300 milligrams per milliliter (mg/ml). women, 15 to 200 mg/ml.

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