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Anemia: The Basics


Many years ago, when vitamin supplements weren't as easily accessible as they are today, a television commercial trumpeted the problem of "iron-poor blood." 

This commercial never mentioned the disorder by name, but it was clear, they were talking about anemia.

Anemia is a condition in which the level of red blood cells dips too low to adequately transport oxygen to all tissues of your body. When there are parts of your body that are deprived of oxygen, you feel tired.

There are many forms of anemia, many of which involve a deficiency of some form of vitamin usually a member of the B-complex. It could be B-12 or folic acid. Another common form of anemia is the iron deficient variety. 

Other than fatigue, symptoms of this disorder include a pale skin tone, loss of appetite, a sore mouth and tongue as well as diarrhea. Additionally, if you experience a numbness of tingling sensation in your hands and feet, you may also have anemia.

An iron deficiency, by far, is the most common cause of anemia. One study suggests that nearly 60 percent of young women may not have enough iron in their systems. Most of those, though, do not exhibit any symptoms of anemia.

And there's good reason for this. Women of childbearing years lose up to 2.5 mg of iron each month because of their menstrual cycles. Many of these "iron poor" females, moreover, don't eat enough of the foods that would replenish that supply of iron. 

The official U.S. government estimate of iron consumption for women between the ages of 18 and 24 is 18 mg. The average female, by the way, receives less than 11 mg.

Iron is essential for the production of red blood cells. If your system doesn't have enough, it'll produce less hemoglobin, the protein in the red blood cells that transports the oxygen from the lungs and then releases it into the tissues when the oxygen is low.

Your body stores iron principally in the hemoglobin. Each 100 ml of healthy blood contains about 15 grams of hemoglobin. Each gram of hemoglobin in turn contains about 3.4 mg of iron.

If you're eating a healthy diet, you're receiving about 20 mg of iron daily. Of this, approximately only 10 percent of this 20 mg actually gets absorbed into the body. In those individuals who do have iron-deficiency anemia, though, this amount of the nutrient is not nearly enough. These individuals need a rapid correction in the amount of hemoglobin their blood has

More basic info about anemia

While you probably can't call it an epidemic, it certainly appears to be a major health problem in this country. In the United States alone, about 3.4 million people are currently diagnosed with anemia of some sort. 

But that may be only the tip of the iceberg. The real concern is the number of people who have an undiagnosed case of anemia. Anemia is not only under diagnosed, but it's also under treated. At least that's what the National Center for Health Statistics says. And that's a shame, because the fatigue-causing condition can have repercussions that can rage throughout your body.

One of the problems is that the symptoms and other indications of anemia are very often vague. More often than not, they can all too easily be mistaken for other, less serious, health problems. To compound the problem, anemic conditions may also be present in individuals who have other, more critical illnesses and diseases. These include chronic kidney disease, diabetes, rheumatoid arthritis, inflammatory bowel disease and even HIV/AIDS and cancer.

The National Kidney Foundation, for example, has set clinical practice guidelines on the classifications system for chronic kidney disease. This group estimates that nearly 20 million Americans live with chronic kidney disease. What does this have to do with anemia? Plenty. Anemia is an early and common complication of this disease. And it only worsens as the kidney disease progresses. That puts nearly another 50 million Americans at a high risk for anemia.

Not only that, but the elderly population is also at greater risk for anemia. The statistics in fact are pretty incredible. The established health care community has known for a long time that older folks are more prone to developing anemia. However, the severity of the problem is now only being discovered. Health care practitioners now estimate that as many as 15 percent of those older than age 60 may have various degrees of vitamin B12 deficiency. Of those, three percent are though to have pernicious anemia, which is caused by the inability to absorb B12. This is caused by the lack of a protein simply called intrinsic factor.

Other segments of the population who are at a greater risk for developing anemia include individuals with any type of intestinal disorder. This type of health condition very often affects your body's ability to absorb and properly utilize nutrients especially the B-complex which are vital to the creation of red blood cells.

Pregnant women are also at a greater risk of anemia, especially of the iron deficient variety. 

Note: Some statements in this article may not be approved by the FDA. This article is for informational purposes only and should not be taken as professional medical advice.

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