Anemia is a medical diagnosis whereby the body lacks red blood cells. Red blood cells contain hemoglobin which carries oxygen to the body. Without sufficient oxygen, tissues and cells will not work efficiently. Consequently, anemia is a serious condition that may affect the brain, heart, lungs, and kidneys.
Causes of Anemia
There are a number of causes of anemia; some are temporary and others are chronic. Simple and usually temporary causes include: shortage of iron, B12, or folic acid due to poor diet, blood loss due to surgery, heavy menstruation, or bleeding ulcers.
Chronic forms of anemia that may last a long time include: cancer or cancer treatment, HIV/AIDS and certain medications used for treatment, chronic diseases such as kidney failure, and inherited blood disorders such as sickle cell anemia which causes the body to produce faulty hemoglobin.
Common Symptoms of Anemia
- extreme tiredness and weakness
- confusion or loss of concentration
- shortness of breath
- rapid heartbeat
- chest pain
- dizziness or fainting
- diffculty sleeping
Depending on the cause, treatment for anemia may involve a simple change in diet, and adding supplements until your hemoglobin count returns to normal. If anemia is due to chronic illness or surgery, treatment may include blood transfusions or medication that helps the body produce more red blood cells. Each case will be different so it is important to see your doctor before embarking on a course of action.
Tips for Coping with Anemia
If you think you have anemia, contact your doctor for a diagnosis. A simple blood test can determine whether you are iron deficient. Other coping tips include:
- Know your hemoglobin count. A normal hemoglobin level in men is between 140g/L - 180g/L and for women it is 120g/L - 160g/L. Ask your doctor what your count is.
- East a well-balanced diet rich in heme iron such as: lean meat, turkey, oysters, salmon, clams, liver, shrimp, sardines, and mussels.
- Avoid foods that inhibit absorbtion of iron including: tea, coffee, red wine, soy products, spinich, chard and whole grains and bran.
- Get plenty of rest and seek help from family and friends if necessary.
- Ask your doctor about vitamins and supplements.
Anemia can greatly impact an individual's quality of life. If you have any of the more obvious symptoms (extreme tiredness, lack of concentration, dizziness, or poor sleep), see your doctor.