Get enough -- but not too much -- iron to protect your heart

When you've got heart disease, you never know when the "big one" -- a full-blown heart attack -- is going to strike.

And when you've got the most common type of heart disease, coronary artery disease (CAD), you may not even feel a thing... until your arteries get so clogged that they become deadly.

But according to a new study, you can reduce your risk of CAD naturally by getting more of one essential mineral in your diet: iron.

Whether you'll have more or less iron available in your bloodstream is something that's built right into your genetic code -- so British researchers compared the genes of over 48,000 people in the general population with over 50,000 people with CAD.

Their analysis focused on a part of the genome called "single nucleotide polymorphism" (SNP), which is involved in regulating your body's "iron status."

What these researchers found is that those with "high" iron status had a lower risk of CAD than those with "low" iron status.

Interestingly, previous studies on the link between this essential mineral and the heart have shown conflicting results, with some suggesting that iron could actually increase the risk of heart attacks.

But those studies -- which were observational -- were limited because they couldn't isolate iron as the only factor being tested, and environmental factors like age and gender could've influenced the results.

The new study, however, eliminated those problems by focusing exclusively on genetic evidence.

This is big news, since CAD causes a THIRD of all deaths among Americans over 35. But a lack of iron isn't only a risk factor for CAD.

Iron deficiency can also cause anemia... trigger heart palpitations... and increase your risk of infection. It can even DOUBLE your risk of dying from a stroke!

If you're a little on the older side, you might even be deficient in iron yourself. As you age, it can be harder for your body to absorb nutrients from food, including from iron-rich foods like dark leafy greens and red meat.

Even some of the meds you may be taking can send your iron levels plummeting! And that's especially true if you're on any of those acid-blocking meds, since low levels of stomach acid can cause poor absorption of iron.

So, you also might want to consider an iron supplement -- but don't fly solo in dosing up on iron because there is such a thing as too much iron.

In excess, it can damage your cells and organs, so talk to a doc well-versed in nutritional medicine about what the right dosage for you might be.