What you need to know about Anemia
If a person does not have enough healthy red blood cells, they can develop a condition called Anemia. This means that the blood has lower than normal levels of hemoglobin – this being the part of the red blood cell that carries oxygen to all cells in the body.
This condition represents a public health problem, taking into account that, according to the World Health Organization, 614 million women and 280 million children worldwide are affected by it. In addition, nutritional deficiency related to the absence of iron, the main cause of anemia, affects 33% of non-pregnant women, 40% of pregnant women and 42% of children.
Which is why it is important to know how and why this condition occurs, as well as to identify the symptoms and risk factors to potentially prevent the development of this disease or to consult a doctor in due time and receive the appropriate treatment.
What do red blood cells do?
First, it is necessary to be clear that the body produces three types of blood cells: white blood cells to fight infection, platelets to help the blood clot, and red blood cells to carry oxygen throughout the body.
Red blood cells contain hemoglobin, a protein rich in iron that gives blood its red color. This allows red blood cells to carry oxygen from the lungs to all parts of the body and to ensure that carbon dioxide is exhaled.
To produce hemoglobin and red blood cells, the body needs iron, vitamin B-12, folate and other nutrients from food, which is why a healthy diet is an important factor when talking about anemia.
What can cause anemia?
A person can get anemia due to different reasons. Some common causes include:
* Cancer treatments, such as radiation or chemotherapy
* Loss of blood
* Absence of certain vitamins or minerals in the diet
* Low levels of iron in the blood
* Major organ problems (including severe heart, lung, kidney, or liver disease)
* Red blood cells destroyed by the body before being replaced
* Production of fewer red blood cells
Types of anemia
The different causes of anemia have led to a classification, which makes it easier to identify the most effective treatments:
* Iron deficiency anemia
* Vitamin deficiency anemia
* Inflammation anemia, related to acute or chronic inflammatory diseases
* Aplastic anemia, related to infections, certain medications, autoimmune diseases, and exposure to toxic chemicals
* Anemias associated with diseases of the bone marrow, linked to diseases, such as leukemia and myelofibrosis
* Hemolytic anemias when red blood cells are destroyed faster than the bone marrow can replace them
* Sickle cell anemia related to a defective form of hemoglobin that forces red blood cells to change into an abnormal shape. These irregular red blood cells die prematurely and lead to a chronic shortage of red blood cells.
Symptoms of anemia
In terms of symptoms, anemia often starts slowly, so a person suffering it may not notice the warning signs at first. As hemoglobin levels drop, the following signs may occur:
* Rapid heart beat
* Accelerated respiratory rate
* Breathing difficulties
* Dizziness or lightheadedness
* Chest pain
* Swelling of the hands and / or feet
* Paler-looking skin, nail bed, mouth, and gums color than usual
* Extreme exhaustion
There are different factors that can accelerate the appearance of anemia; identifying them can help prevent them. These include:
* Diet that lacks certain vitamins, minerals, iron, vitamin B-12, and folate
* Intestinal disorders
* Menstruation. In general, women who have not had menopause are at increased risk for iron deficiency anemia. Likewise, menstruation causes loss of red blood cells.
* Chronic conditions such as cancer, kidney failure, diabetes, among others
* Slow and chronic loss of blood from an ulcer or other source, can deplete the body’s iron reserves
* Family background
* History of certain infections, blood diseases, and autoimmune disorders
* Exposure to toxic chemicals and the use of some medications that can affect the production of red blood cells
* Age. People over 65 are at increased risk for anemia.
Although some types of anemia cannot be prevented, it is possible to prevent the onset of iron and vitamin deficiency anemia by eating a nutritious diet that includes:
* Iron. Iron-rich foods include beef and other meats, beans, lentils, iron-fortified cereals, dark green leafy vegetables, and dried fruits.
* Folate. This nutrient, and its synthetic form of folic acid, can be found in fruits and fruit juices, dark leafy green vegetables, green peas, kidney beans, peanuts, and fortified grain products such as bread, cereals, pasta, and rice.
* B12 vitamin. Foods rich in vitamin B-12 include meat, dairy products, and fortified cereal and soy-based products.
* Vitamin C. Foods high in vitamin C include citrus fruits and juices, bell peppers, broccoli, tomatoes, melons, and strawberries. These also help increase iron absorption.
Generally speaking, there are several types of anemia, each with its own cause. It can be temporary or prolonged and can range from mild to severe. Treatments for this condition range from taking supplements to undergoing medical procedures. However, it is possible to avoid some risk factors with a healthy and varied diet.
However, if you identify any warning signs or symptoms, it is important to consult your doctor or health service. Currently, thanks to scientific advances, most anemias are treated.