Causes of Anaemia and Symptoms, and Preventive Measures


                       

Even without Being a medical doctor, we all know that blood loss or, more jocularly, ‘inadequate blood,’ can be a life-threatening issue if it is not given the deserved attention.

Physicians say this dangerous condition is more common than we know, as many people who are anaemic may not even be aware that they are until it reaches a dangerous stage.

The main problem is, some people who are suffering from anaemia have no symptoms!


However, haematologists say those that do have symptoms may feel tired, become easily fatigued, appear pale, have a feeling of a heart racing, feel short of breath, and/or have worsening heart problems.

So, if you feel one or more of these symptoms, it’s better to approach your doctor. He may recommend a simple blood test that is known as a complete blood cell count.

But then, what causes anaemia?

Consultant haematologist, Dr. Biyi Ajose, says in general, anaemia could result when the body cannot produce enough red blood cells (haemoglobin); or when an infection, such as HIV/AIDS, wreaks havoc by causing an increase in loss of red blood cells.

The physician notes that bleeding can lead to loss of haemoglobin. “This can go on in the body without the victim really knowing that something dangerous is slowly developing in his body,” he says.

Ajose says certain medical conditions also make blood loss inevitable, even when the victim doesn’t know that s/he is losing blood. Such conditions include sickle cell anaemia, kidney failure, ulcers, piles (haemorrhoids), inflammation of the stomach (gastritis) and cancer of the bowel.

“Equally important is the blood loss that women suffer during menstruation and childbirth. A woman who suffers from excessive menstrual bleeding, or women who have multiple pregnancies, or those who don’t space their children, stand a huge risk of developing anaemia,” Ajose warns.

And even at the best of times, doctors say, breastfeeding can deplete a woman’s iron stores, hence the need for lactating mothers to eat well and rest as necessary.

Again, nutritionists say that a lack of minerals and vitamins that are needed for red blood cells to work properly may result in anaemia.

Consultant Nutritionist, Dr. Remi Omotunde, says we can get essential minerals and vitamins in our foods when we eat things like lean meats, clams, liver, nuts, beans, whole grains, dark leafy vegetables, fortified cereals, etc.

You will also do yourself a world of good if you regularly eat fruits, whole grains, fat-free or non-fat milk and milk products, fish, eggs, and other foods that are low in saturated fat, trans fats, cholesterol, salt, and added sugars.

Indeed, physicians say that certain drugs, foods, and even caffeinated drinks can expose anyone to the risks of developing anaemia, hence the need to adopt a healthy lifestyle!

Equally at risk are commercial blood donors who move from hospital to hospital, selling their blood and lying to the hospitals that they have not donated blood elsewhere!

Again, those who engage in serious physical exertions, such as endurance training, are advised to keep in regular touch with their doctors, because the rigorous activities could readily deplete their haemoglobin levels and expose them to the risks of developing anaemia.

Paediatricians also note that children can experience iron deficiency, especially when they are between six months and three years of age.

“In part, this is due to rapid growth and inadequate intake of dietary iron. However, some categories of children risk developing anaemia. These include premature babies or those that are born with low birth weight; as well as babies who do not get enough dietary requirements after their mothers stopped breastfeeding them exclusively,” says a paediatrician, Dr. Friday Odey.

No self-medication!

Physicians warn, however, that though iron deficiency can result in anaemia, people should not engage in self-medication by taking iron supplements.

Ajose notes, “Always consult with your doctor before taking iron supplements. This is because excess iron intake can be harmful and its symptoms may include fatigue, vomiting, diarrhoea, headaches, irritability and joint problems.”

How to prevent anaemia

According to the online portal, webmd.com, you can prevent anaemia by taking the following steps:
  • Eating a well-balanced diet that includes good sources of iron, vitamin B12 and folate.
  • If you are a vegetarian, talk to your doctor or a dietitian about your diet and any possible need for supplements.
  • Ask your doctor or dietitian if you should take vitamin C. Vitamin C can improve the absorption of iron in your diet.
  • Decrease your consumption of caffeinated products and tea. These substances can decrease iron absorption.
  • Other offenders include the preservative EDTA, fibre, large amounts of calcium, and the phytates found in some vegetables.
  • Select iron-fortified cereals and breads.
  • Carefully follow safety guidelines if your occupation involves work with lead-containing materials such as batteries, petroleum, and paint.

And for babies:
  • If possible, breastfeed your baby for at least 12 months.
  • Starting at four to six months of age, give your baby plain, iron-fortified infant cereal and/or pureed meat.
  • When your baby is about six months of age, include foods rich in vitamin C with foods that are rich in non-heme iron to improve iron absorption.If you can’t breastfeed, use iron-fortified formula.
  • Don’t give low-iron milks (e.g. cow’s milk, goat’s milk, and soy milk) until your baby is at least 12 months old.
  • If your baby was born early or small, talk to your doctor about giving iron drops to your baby.

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