5 Keys to Living with Anemia

Anemia is simply having too few red blood cells in your blood. Red blood cells carry oxygen throughout your body and when you don’t have enough, you don’t get enough oxygen where your body needs it. This can cause fatigue, dizziness, weakness, and shortness of breath, but the tricky thing is, you might not have any of these symptoms. Mild anemia may not show any signs at all.

See Your Doctor

If you have any reason to believe you may be anemic, see your doctor to be checked. Diagnosis, according to XpertDox, is made by looking at the level of red blood cells as well as you haemoglobin levels. Normal ranges vary between men and women, 4.5 to 6 million cells per microliter in men and 4 to 5 million in women, and if your doctor determines you fall below the range you can….

Find Out Why

Once you’ve determined you have anemia, the next step is to find out what is causing it. This can range from blood loss to poor nutrition or genetic conditions. You need to find out what is happening in your particular case before you can treat it.

Blood loss can be quite obvious, trauma causing internal bleeding or external wounds. Less obvious is when heavy menstrual bleeding causes abnormal blood loss. Gastrointestinal problems, such as ulcers, can cause blood loss where it can’t be seen. Colon cancer and inflammatory bowel disease are other culprits.

Nutritional deficiencies are the most prevalent cause of anemia, with estimates of up to one third of the world’s population being affected. A lack of iron in the diet, or a failure to absorb sufficient iron from the foods you eat, is the most common and well known cause. Not having enough Vitamin B12 or folate can also cause anemia. It is possible to increase your iron dosage to toxic levels, so be sure to consult with your doctor on all medications you use, including supplements.

Leukemia can cause a reduction in the number of red blood cells produced, and so can bone marrow failure. Chronic kidney disease results in a decrease in erythropoietin which is responsible for causing the production of red blood cells. Difficulty in absorbing iron or using stored iron can be caused by chronic conditions like autoimmune disorders or infections like HIV. Even chemotherapy drugs can damage stem cells in bone marrow and hinder the amount of red blood cells produced.

Find a Treatment

Once you’ve determined the cause, it’s time to start talking about treatments. Again, your doctor needs to be closely involved with this process. There are risks that you might not be aware of and doctors have the best resources for tracking down any potential problems.

Treatment for blood loss is usually either straightforward, stop the bleeding from wounds, or wrapped up in the treatment of the other condition. If you treat the ulcer, you address the blood loss as well.

The same holds true for diseases and conditions causing low red blood counts. As part of the treatment for the condition, you have to take into account the anemia. This is where you rely heavily on your doctor to put together a comprehensive plan of treatment.

Where you will be most involved is in the dietary area. Figuring out just how significant your anemia is and what lack in your diet it causing it leads quickly to a choice between supplements or changes in diet, although there are other treatments for more severe cases.

Follow your treatment

When anemia is caused by deficiencies in things like iron or Vitamin B12, adjusting your diet or adding supplemental sources of these can be all you need. But you have to follow the plan. And there are a few pitfalls that can catch you along the way.

Iron deficiency anemia is one of the most common types, and getting more iron isn’t that hard. But there are a few tricks to it. There are certain medications that nullify your iron supplements. Including antacids. Additionally, don’t take with calcium-rich foods, caffeine, or fiber-rich foods. All of these can cause them to be less effective. If possible, take iron pills on an empty stomach, that helps absorption.

If you are changing your diet to increase your iron, there are tips and tricks for that too. Red meats, fish and poultry all are good sources of iron. This kind of iron is the most easily absorbed, but you can also get iron from a variety of plant foods. One trick is to include foods that help plant-based iron be absorbed. Lean red meats, leafy greens and Vitamin C, B12, folate, and zinc can all help you get the most from the iron in your meals.

Stay alert, stay alive

Once you’ve got your anemia under control, don’t just forget about it. If it happened once, it could happen again. Keep checking with your doctor, bring it up a your regular checkup. The symptoms are subtle at first, so always try to stay ahead of it.

And as another bit of alertness on your diet, there are a number of foods that can prevent you from absorbing all the iron you might normally. These foods are fine and healthy, just avoid eating them within two hours of taking iron supplements or your main iron-rich meal. Eggs have a protein that inhibits iron absorption. So do calcium-rich foods. Oxalates, found in spinach, kale, beets, chocolate, tea and more. Polyphenols, also in tea, coffee, wine, cocoa, spices and some fruits. And phytate, which is in soy protein and fiber, as well as walnuts, almonds, beans, and cereals.

So there you have it. Feeling run down? It might be anemia, but don’t just guess. Find out and make a treatment plan with you doctor. Follow your plan and keep that blood flowing and delivering precious oxygen throughout your body. Because don’t you deserve to be healthy?

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