Anemia often causes symptoms that we pooh-pooh off as just “working too hard” or having a “long day.” If your last health report says you are anemic, it’s time to take charge. And once you know what you’re dealing with, fixing it can be straightforward.
What Is Anemia?
Your red blood cells (RBCs) contain an iron-rich protein called hemoglobin that helps transport oxygen from the lungs to tissues around the body. If there’s an issue with either the hemoglobin levels or the number or size of RBCs, you have anemia, where your body does not get enough oxygen-rich blood. Common signs of the condition include:
- Weakness, fatigue, or tiredness
- Irregular heartbeats
- Shortness of breath
- Light-headedness or dizziness
- Chest pain
- Yellowish or pale or yellowish skin
- Cold feet and hands
- Weird cravings for inedible substances like mud or clay
But don’t assume that anemia always causes these symptoms. For many, symptoms may not appear until the condition worsens. Which is why it’s a good idea to get a blood workup done periodically.
Certain risk factors make you more vulnerable to the condition.
Women, Take Heed!
Anemia is an especially big problem among women because of menstrual blood loss. Indian women, too, are vulnerable. According to one report, about 51% of all women of reproductive age in the country are anemic thanks to poor diet, lack of awareness, limited access to good healthcare, and putting the family’s needs ahead of one’s own nutritional needs.
It is important to nip the problem in the bud, especially if you are planning a baby or are pregnant, when there’s additional need for blood.
Figure Out What’s Causing Your Anemia
There are over 400 kinds of anemia and these are roughly classified into 3 main groups. Anemia usually occurs when:
- blood loss causes your RBC levels to drop,
- your body isn’t producing enough RBCs, or
- your body is destroying them.
⚠ While a hemoglobin test can help spot anemia, it is vital you identify what kind of anemia you’re dealing with. Consult a doctor, who might run some additional diagnostic tests to confirm the cause of your anemia and recommend suitable treatment.
Skipping this step might worsen your condition and raise the risk of complications.
Types Of Anemia To Watch Out For
- Anemia could be the result of an iron deficiency or a vitamin deficiency (folate, vitamin B-12, and vitamin C).
- It could also be a blood disease like sickle cell anemia, aplastic anemia, thalassemia, or due to G6PD deficiency.
- Some chronic inflammatory diseases like Crohn’s disease, rheumatoid arthritis, kidney disease, HIV/AIDS, and cancer can hinder RBC production, leading to chronic disease anemia.
Of these, deficiency-linked anemia tends to be the most common but is easier to fix.
Tips To Beat Deficiency-Linked Anemia
The natural solution to a deficiency-related anemia is to improve your intake of those foods. Start with these steps:
- Amp up your intake of iron-rich foods like lean chicken, lean meat, dark green leafy vegetables, dried fruit, legumes, lentils, beans, and iron-fortified cereals.
- Consume foods rich in vitamin C like oranges and other citrus fruit, broccoli, strawberries, bell peppers, and tomatoes. Vitamin C also improves the absorption of iron, so it’s doubly important to get enough.
- Eat more green leafy vegetables, nuts, kidney beans, green peas, peanuts, enriched wholegrain products, fruit, and fruit juices – they are foods rich in folate.
- Boost vitamin B-12 in your diet. Options include meat, eggs, yogurt, milk, cheese, shellfish, and B-12 fortified foods like cereals.
- Quit smoking. It can hamper the absorption of nutrients from your diet.
- Cut alcohol intake since it contributes to vitamin deficiency anemia. If you can’t stop altogether, drink in moderation.
Of course, if there’s an underlying problem with how your body processes and absorbs these nutrients, that will need to be fixed first. For those with severe anemia, even from deficiency-linked causes, medical treatment may also be necessary alongside.