Things everyone should know about anaemia

In India, 50% of anaemic school children and women of reproductive age and 80% of anaemic children aged 2-5 years have iron-deficiency anaemia.

Myupchar September 23, 2019 14:01:05 IST
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Things everyone should know about anaemia
  • When haemoglobin falls below 11.9 grams per deciliter (g/dL) of blood, this condition is called anaemia

  • In India, 50% of anaemic school children and women of reproductive age and 80% of anaemic children aged 2-5 years have iron-deficiency anaemia

  • Eating foods like eggs, lean red meat, salmon, iron-fortified cereals, tofu, dark green leafy vegetables and dried fruits that are rich in iron can help prevent iron-deficiency anaemia

The Punjab government on Wednesday launched a 45-day campaign to create awareness about anaemia.

Data show that while 54.4% of Indian women aged 15-49 are anaemic, Punjab has a marginally higher prevalence of anaemia at 56.1% of women in the state. This has serious implications for the health of our future generations.

When haemoglobin falls below 11.9 grams per deciliter (g/dL) of blood, this condition is called anaemia. In severe anaemia, haemoglobin falls below 8 g/dL.

Things everyone should know about anaemia

Representational image. Image source: Getty Images.

As part of the campaign, the health department of Punjab government plans to offer treatments for anaemia to adolescent girls, pregnant women and lactating mothers in the state. The government is also providing the facility of free haemoglobin testing at some hospitals.

Taking our cue from the Punjab government and in the spirit of raising awareness, here’s a look at the causes, symptoms, complications of anaemia as well as some ways to avoid anaemia that everyone should know:

Causes of anaemia

The most common cause of anaemia is iron-deficiency. But there can be many other reasons for it as well.

  • Iron deficiency: Our body needs iron to make haemoglobin - a protein which takes oxygen to every single cell in the body. When the body doesn’t get adequate iron, it can become anaemic. Cancer, ulcers, heavy blood loss through the menstrual cycle or an accident, or any situation where the body fails to replace the blood lost, can also result in this condition.
  • Sickle-cell anaemia: This is an inherited condition in which the red blood cells are sickle-shaped and rigid - they get destroyed as they pass through the smaller blood vessels, leading to anaemia
  • Vitamin-deficiency anaemia: Folate (vitamin B9), vitamin B12 and vitamin C are all important for the production of red blood cells. A deficiency of these vitamins can result in the production of deformed (for example, very large) red blood cells.
  • Hemolytic anaemia: An inherited condition in which red blood cells die faster than the body can make new ones
  • Anaemia of inflammation: This is a condition in which the body has enough iron but the blood cells are iron-deficient. Inflammation restricts the body’s ability to use stored iron to form healthy red blood cells. In certain chronic health conditions like cancer, HIV/AIDS or kidney diseases, inflammation can lead to this type of anaemia
  • Aplastic anaemia: Our body makes red blood cells in the bone marrow: the spongy tissue in between some bones. In people in whom the bone marrow is damaged (this can be congenital, or because of chronic infection or exposure to harmful radiation or chemotherapy), the body fails to produce enough haemoglobin, resulting in anaemia.

Symptoms of Anaemia

The symptoms of anaemia can vary depending on the cause. More often than not, anaemia goes unnoticed and untreated. A basic complete blood count (CBC test) is enough to check your haemoglobin. Get it done if you experience these symptoms:

  • Fatigue
  • Lightheadedness
  • Pale skin and brittle nails
  • Palpitations
  • Regular headaches
  • Shortness of breath

Complications of anaemia

  • Heart problems: Haemoglobin carries oxygen from the lungs to the other body parts. In anaemic people, the heart has to work harder to carry enough oxygen to the body. This extra pressure can lead to conditions like irregular heartbeat, enlarged heart or even heart failure.
  • Depression: Anaemia can also lead to depression, and increase the risk of infections.
  • Pregnancy-related complications: Pregnancy increases one’s risk of getting anaemia. Anaemic mothers can also go into labour early, and give birth to children who are underweight (low birth weight). In pregnant women, haemoglobin under 7g/dL is considered severe anaemia

Prevention of anaemia

In India, 50% of anaemic school children and women of reproductive age and 80% of anaemic children aged 2-5 years have iron-deficiency anaemia. Eating foods like eggs, lean red meat, salmon, iron-fortified cereals, tofu, dark green leafy vegetables and dried fruits that are rich in iron can help. Oranges, strawberries and tomatoes are rich in vitamin C, which helps in the absorption of iron.

Fruit juices, green peas, vegetables, kidney beans, peanuts and grain products are good sources of folate, while meat, milk products, fortified cereals and soy products are rich in vitamin B12. Incorporating these foods in the daily diet can stave off the risk of vitamin-deficiency anaemia.

While a healthy and balanced diet can eliminate the risk of iron-deficiency anaemia and vitamin-deficiency anaemia to a great extent, supplements can also help to improve haemoglobin levels. In 2013, the Ministry of Health and Family Welfare launched the Weekly Iron and Folic Acid Supplementation (WIFS) Programme nationwide to provide iron and folic acid tablets to adolescent boys and girls. For planned pregnancies, doctors recommend that women start taking folic acid tablet three months prior to when they hope to conceive.

Health articles in Firstpost are written by myUpchar.com, India’s first and biggest resource for verified medical information. At myUpchar, researchers and journalists work with doctors to bring you information on all things health. For more information, please read our in-depth article on Anaemia: Types, Causes, Symptoms, Diagnosis, Treatment and Prevention.

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