What is anemia?
Anemia is a common blood condition where your blood does not have enough healthy red blood cells or hemoglobin. Hemoglobin is the main part of the red blood cells and is used to bind oxygen.
Anemia can be so mild that you may not have any symptoms. However, if gone untreated, symptoms may begin to emerge and become more severe.
What are the symptoms?
Symptoms of anemia can include:
- pale or yellowish tones to the skin
- irregular heartbeats such as palpitations or arrhythmias
- shortness of breath
- dizziness or light-headedness
- chest pain
- cold hands and feet due to poor blood circulation
Are there different types of anemia?
There are many different types and causes of anemia. Some of these include:
- Iron-deficient anemia: Iron deficiency is the most common cause of anemia. Your bone marrow needs iron to make hemoglobin. Due to this fact, without adequate iron, your body can’t produce enough hemoglobin to make red blood cells. Iron-deficient anemia commonly occurs in pregnant women. It can also be caused by blood loss, such as from injury or heavy menstrual cycles or by chronic (regular) use of over-the-counter pain relieving medications such as aspirin.
- Vitamin-deficient anemia: Your body also needs folate and vitamin B-12 to produce healthy red blood cells. If you are deficient in these key vitamins, your body cannot make enough healthy red blood cells, which may lead to anemia.
- Anemia caused by chronic illness: Certain diseases such as cancer; HIV/AIDS; kidney disease; and certain autoimmune diseases can interfere with the production of hemoglobin and red blood cells. It is important to have your blood levels checked regularly if you are diagnosed with one of these conditions.
- Hemolytic anemias: These types of anemias occur when red blood cells are destroyed faster than your bone marrow can replace them. You can either inherit these types of anemias or you can develop them later on in life.
- Sickle Cell anemia: This is an inherited condition and can be very serious. It is a type of hemolytic anemia. Defective forms of hemoglobin force red blood cells into a crescent shape. These irregular blood cells die too early, which results in a chronic shortage of red blood cells.
- Aplastic anemia: This is a very rare and life-threatening form of anemia. It occurs when your body doesn’t produce enough red blood cells. This can be caused by infection; certain types of medication; autoimmune diseases; and exposure to toxic chemicals.
There are many ways to prevent and treat anemia. Be sure to consume foods and drinks that are rich in iron, B-12 and folic acid, such as leafy, green vegetables; strawberries; citrus fruits; lean, red meats, seafood and beans.
Avoid drinking coffee and tea with your meals if you are prone to anemia. These beverages can inhibit the absorption of non-heme iron (iron that primarily comes from plants).
Consume more calcium, as calcium can help with the absorption of iron. Your doctor may prescribe B-12 or iron supplements if your blood levels are low to help with your anemia. B-12 and folic acid supplements are also available over-the-counter.