Women's Health Week, 6 - 10 September 2021

Make good health a priority

All women should make good health a priority.

Women’s Health Week is one week in a busy year dedicated to encouraging all women across Australia to make good health a priority.

Supported by the Jean Hailes' foundation, Women’s Health Week is a nation-wide campaign of events and online activities – all centred on improving women’s health and helping women make healthier choices.

Women’s health and nutrition – putting the spotlight on Iron

Iron deficiency is on the rise among young Australian women, with the prevalence in Australia estimated to be 20% (1).

Young women between 18 to 30 years of age are most commonly affected by a lack of iron and anaemia, with menstruation, pregnancy, menopause and even emerging diet trends, all working as contributing factors.

Young women are also at an increased risk of iron deficiency anaemia with 6.4% of Australian women, compared to only 2.5% of young men, reported to have iron deficiency anaemia (2).

We need iron for many functions in our body. It helps to transport oxygen through our blood to all our organs and supports our immune system, muscle function and brain development. Common symptoms of iron deficiency include fatigue, dizziness and headaches, breathing difficulties, brain fog, restless legs and leg cramps and cold feet and hands. 

Where can I get iron in my diet:

  • Animal sources of iron – red meat and seafood. If you are a meat eater, include 2-3 serves of lean red meat in your diet each week.
  • Plant based sources of iron – firm tofu, cooked kidney beans/chickpeas/lentils, fortified cereals, quinoa, cooked spinach, cooked broccoli.
  • Include sources of vitamin C to help the absorption of plant based iron, e.g. fruits.
  • Cooking plant sources of iron generally increase the amount of iron available.

Tips for increasing iron:

  • Eating a large variety of foods in your diet will help you meet your requirements for all nutrients, including iron.
  • Tea, coffee and wine all contain tannins that can reduce iron absorption in the body.
  • If you require iron supplements, take iron supplements at a different time of the day to calcium supplements, and at a meal with no dairy or one that is relatively low in dairy.
  • Always make sure you check with GP first before commencing any supplements, including iron.

If you need help with increasing your iron intake, Connect Health & Community Dietitians are can help you develop an approach for your specific needs.  With phone and video consultations available, you can call us today on 03) 9575 5333 or visit our Diet and Nutrition information page. 

For more information about Women's Health Week, visit https://www.womenshealthweek.com.au/ 

References:

  1. Ahmed F, Coyne T, Dobson A and McClintock C (2008)Iron status among Australian adults: findings of a population based study in Queensland, Australia’, Asia Pac J Clin Nut,; 17(1):40-7.
  2. Australian Bureau of Statistics Anaemia. [(accessed on 3 September 2021)]; Available online: http://www.abs.gov.au/ausstats/abs@.nsf/Lookup/4364.0.55.005Chapter7002011-12.[Ref list]

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