What Is Hereditary Hemochromatosis?

Hereditary hemochromatosis is a genetic disorder in which there is excessive accumulation of iron in the body, otherwise known as iron overload.

Hereditary hemochromatosis is one of the most important causes of iron overload.

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Individuals affected with hereditary hemochromatosis may have no symptoms or signs (and have normal longevity), or they can have severe symptoms and signs of iron overload that include sexual dysfunction, heart failure, joint pains, liver cirrhosis , diabetes mellitus, fatigue, and darkening of skin.

The normal iron content of the body is three to four grams. The total amount of iron in the body is carefully controlled. The body loses one mg of iron daily from sweat and cells that are shed from the skin and the inner lining of the intestines. Women also lose one mg of iron daily on average from. In normal adults the intestines absorb one mg of iron daily from food to replace the lost iron, and therefore, there is no excess accumulation of iron in the body. When iron losses are greater, more iron is absorbed from food.

In individuals with hereditary hemochromatosis, the daily absorption of iron from the intestines is greater than the amount needed to replace losses. Since the normal body cannot increase iron excretion, the absorbed iron accumulates in the body. At this rate of iron accumulation, a man with hemochromatosis can accumulate 20 gram of total body iron by age 40 to 50. This excess iron deposits in the joints, liver, testicles, and heart, which causes damage to these organs, and causes signs and symptoms of hemochromatosis. Women with hemochromatosis accumulate iron at a slower rate than men because they lose more iron than men due to iron loss from menstruation and breastfeeding. Therefore, they typically develop signs and symptoms of organ damage due to excess iron 10 years later then men.

Reboot Your Body

A man leaning on a desk and touching an orangeWhile it seems that our bodies are pretty solid structures – and they are – at a cellular level they are constantly renewing. You change each blood cell three times a year. You completely turn over the cells of your taste buds every ten days. Even your skeleton renews itself roughly once every ten years. Clearly, the body is amazingly resilient—so some healthy living goes a long way towards healthy aging.

Pfizer recently conducted a survey of Americans to ask how they felt about getting old. Of those who said getting older was better than they expected, most gave “I still have my good health” as the top reason. Those who said aging was worse than expected also gave health as a reason – in their case, health problems.

What can you start doing today – at any age – to reboot your body and feel better about getting older? Here’s a quick 30-20-10-5 plan.

30 minutes a day of regular physical activity

Our survey respondents 65 and older reported being more afraid of being dependent (35 percent) or living with pain or disabilities (29 percent) than dying (7 percent).

Fortunately, more and more research is showing that regular physical activity can maintain or improve health and vitality longer as we age. It doesn’t have to be high impact – it just needs to be consistent. Aim for 30 minutes of walking – or gardening, or tai chi, or some other activity you enjoy – every day.

20 minutes twice a week of weight-bearing exercises

The leading cause of restricted mobility and independence in advanced age is breaking a bone – like a hip – in a fall. You may be shocked to learn that one in five adults who suffer a broken hip from a fall will die within one year of their accident. As little of 20 minutes of weight bearing exercises, such as lifting simple hand weights, at least two times a week can help improve bone mass and decrease risk of osteoporosis and broken bones.
10 social interactions a month (more or less)

Keep up your social network – and I am not talking about Facebook. Studies show that people who interact regularly with friends may lower their risk of developing dementia. Schedule fun or rewarding activities with others at least twice a week. Get together with the gang for weekly coffee breaks, join a club or community organization, or volunteer.

5 servings of fruits and vegetables every day

In our survey, respondents 65 and older were more likely to eat five servings of fruits and vegetables a day than any other age group. I guess that message finally sinks in over time! But the earlier you start, the better. Eating antioxidant-rich foods such as dark-skinned fruits and vegetables may reduce the risk of heart disease and stroke and may even protect brain cells, according to recent research. In addition, there is some indication that vitamins, such as vitamin E, or vitamins E and C together, vitamin B12 and folate may be important in lowering your risk of developing Alzheimer ’s disease. You might have heard the saying, “Eat your colors.” Try to include a colorful variety of fruits and vegetables in your diet to get the most nutrients.

What actions are you taking to feel better about getting old? We’d love to hear from you at our Get Old website.