What You Should Know About Anemia and Hemoglobin Levels
Oxygen is vital for the body to be able to function properly. It does not only support cellular respiration but is also necessary for detoxification and the production of energy in the body. Lack of oxygen can have severe effects on the body such as organ failure and brain damage, both of which can lead to death.
There are several conditions that can lead to poor oxygen supply in the body. Lack of oxygen can actually cause the immune system to weaken, subsequently leading to poor health. Anemia is one of the common culprits of poor oxygenation and can be a symptom of an underlying medical condition.
What is Anemia?
Anemia is a condition wherein the body does not have a sufficient supply of healthy red blood cells or RBC’s. When the level of red blood cells in the body gets too low, it can cause a reduction in physical ability and weakness. It can also cause complications in the long run since undue stress is placed on the body organs, especially on the heart. Anemia can be caused by several factors, usually conditions leading to excessive blood loss, poor production of RBC’s, or destruction of RBC’s in the body such as cancer, infection, certain drugs, and nutritional deficiencies.
Anemia is a common condition that affects billions of people all over the world. It does not only affect those in developing countries but those in developed nations as well. It is especially common in children and pregnant women and is considered to be a causative factor in the global burden of disease.
What is Hemoglobin?
Hemoglobin is a protein present in red blood cells. It is responsible for carrying oxygen to different tissues in the body to sustain cell function. One RBC has about 280,000,000 hemoglobin molecules. Hemoglobin combines with oxygen in the lungs, after which oxygenated RBC’s are carried to different body tissues. Oxygen is released in exchange for carbon dioxide and the whole cycle is repeated.
Hemoglobin levels are usually measure$ as part of a complete blood count. For males, the normal hemoglobin level varies from 13 to 18 g/dL. Normal hemoglobin for females can be anywhere between 12 to 16 g/dL. Hemoglobin levels are used to gauge the blood’s oxygen- and iron-carrying capacity.
Effects of Low RBC’s
Having low red blood cells in the body also means that there is low hemoglobin. Inadequate supply of red blood cells leads to poor oxygenation of bodyktissues since there are not enough hemoglobin molecules to meet the oxygen demands of the entire body. Anemia can be difficult to distinguish from other conditions based solely on its symptoms which include body weakness, pallor, and shortness of breath.
Anemia is often the result of a chronic condition but even mild anemia can cause significant changes in the body when left untreated for a prolonged period. Other types of anemia are also life-threatening such as sickle cell anemia and pernicious anemia. Undiagnosed and untreated anemia can lead to complications such as organ dysfunction, brain damage, and heart failure.
In pregnant women, anemia is associated with stillbirths, low birth weight, and preterm delivery especially if it occurs within the first trimester of pregnancy. In children, anemia can cause impairment in mental, physical, and motor development. The elderly tend to suffer more severely from anemia than other age groups and can lead to worsening of heart conditions and dementia.
Although there are different types of anemia, the most common type affecting majority of anemic globally is Iron Deficiency Anemia (IDA). Iron deficiency anemia is not only a health problem but a nutritional problem as well. Preventing IDA and anemia treatment involves a food-based approach to increase iron intake through supplementation, intake of fortified foods, and ensuring variety in diet.
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