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What Is the Acceptable Range for Iron Levels?

Bowl of cooked oatmeal.
The acceptable range of iron levels is different for men and women.
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  • Written By: Lee Johnson
  • Edited By: Nancy Fann-Im
  • Last Modified Date: 08 April 2014
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Levels of iron within the body are measured using three different tests. One of these measures the normal serum iron present in the blood, another measures the amount of transferrin in the blood stream, and the third measures the amount of ferritin. Normal levels are between 60 to 170 micrograms per deciliter (mcg/dl) for serum iron, 240 to 450 mcg/dl for transferrin, and 12 to 300 nanograms per milliliter (ng/ml) of ferritin for men. The acceptable range of ferritin for women is between 12 and 150 ng/ml.

Iron in the blood is used as a primary component of hemoglobin, which is vital for carrying oxygen around the body. When there is no hemoglobin in the blood, the body can’t move the oxygen from the lungs to certain parts of the body. This causes the breathlessness and fatigue commonly associated with anemia. Iron-deficiency anemia is a common form of the condition.

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The levels of iron can be increased through foods such as red meat, eggs, nuts, beans, lentils, oatmeal and spinach. The recommended daily intake of iron depends on gender and age, and the necessary levels are drastically increased in pregnant women. Between 14 to 18 years of age, males need 11 milligrams (mg) of iron per day, and women need 15. Between 19 and 50 years of age, men need only 8 mg of iron per day, but women need 18 mg. If the woman happens to be pregnant, then she should consume 27 mg of iron per day, equivalent to 27 ounces of roasted beef tenderloin.

Serum iron testing is the first test used to determine iron levels in the blood. Anything between 60 and 170 mcg/dl is a normal amount of serum iron within the blood. Less than this level can be indicative of insufficient iron consumed in the diet, anemia, chronic menstrual bleeding or pregnancy. Higher than this may be indicative of hemochromatosis, hepatitis or iron poisoning.

Measuring the levels of transferrin is another method of finding iron levels in the blood. Transferrin helps to transfer iron to the body, and normal levels are between 240 and 450 mcg/dl. Anything over this can be indicative of iron deficiency anemia or late pregnancy, and anything lower can be indicative of sickle cell anemia or cirrhosis.

The third and most reliable method of measuring iron levels involves looking at the amount of ferritin in the blood. Men should have between 12 and 300 ng/ml in the blood, and women should have between 12 and 150 ng/ml. If the patient has lower than this standard amount, it can be indicative of iron deficiency anemia. Higher than this level could suggest Hodgkin’s lymphoma, hemochromatosis or alcoholic liver disease.

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