Feeling totally wrung out? You may have iron-deficiency
anemia. Iron-deficiency anemia is a condition that develops when your body
doesn’t have enough iron to produce enough hemoglobin, the substance in your
red blood cells that enables them to carry oxygen all around your body. When
your tissues don’t get enough oxygen, you may experience fatigue,
lightheadedness, shortness of breath, and other symptoms. But there’s good
news: it’s treatable. Here’s what you need to know.
Get educated about iron-deficiency anemia. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/1496x1001%2B3%2B0/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F10%2F7f%2F7826e6824a97b35196a6ab320766%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-young-woman.jpg
As you might expect from the name of the
condition, a major cause for iron-deficiency anemia is a lack of iron. Some
people don’t eat enough iron-rich foods, like spinach, lentils, tofu, beans,
and various types of meat. Meanwhile, others have trouble absorbing iron from
their food into their bloodstream. And others may be taking a medication that
reduces their body’s ability to absorb enough iron to produce enough hemoglobin;
certain anti-ulcer medications called H2 receptor blockers fall into this
1. Even if you’re eating enough iron, it may not be absorbed by your body. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2Fdc%2F5f%2F793e456b4d90a1b314e653d2b8c3%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-getty-178515300.jpg
Some people develop iron-deficiency anemia after
undergoing surgery or experiencing some other situation in which they lost blood,
like giving birth. With a lower blood volume, they have fewer red blood cells
to carry that oxygen-rich blood around the body. Internal bleeding, like from
ulcers, can also play a role in causing iron-deficiency anemia. Blood loss from
menstruation, nosebleeds or bleeding from the kidneys or bladder can lead to
iron-deficiency anemia, too.
2. Blood loss can be another contributing factor. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F4a%2F5b%2Ffe98ed3647c69414fb68579182c4%2Fresizes%2F1500%2Fimage-surgery.jpg
Anyone can develop iron-deficiency anemia, but
the two groups with the highest risk are women, and young children, including
babies. Women who experience heavy bleeding during their menstrual periods are
especially at risk. Older adults (over age 65) and people with certain types of
gastrointestinal diseases, like Crohn’s disease or ulcerative colitis, are also
more likely to develop iron-deficiency anemia.
3. Women and young children are at highest risk. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2Fd3%2F92%2F6775ef8f4346aeede2d16e2e1313%2Fimage-woman-resting-on-sofa-492642013.jpg
Women in general are at increased risk for
developing iron-deficiency anemia, and this is particularly the case for
pregnant women. Your body’s blood volume increases when you’re gestating a
baby, meaning that you need even more iron. Talk to your doctor about taking an
iron supplement along with your prenatal vitamin.
4. Pregnancy ups your chances of iron-deficiency anemia, too. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/5083x3400%2B0%2B20/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F7c%2F30%2F22fa6b284e1d8631613570cdddf3%2Fimage-pensive-pregnant-woman-holding-stomach-looking-away.jpg
One of the most obvious signs of iron-deficiency
anemia is a pervasive sense of fatigue. You feel drained, droopy, and maybe
even a little cold. Other symptoms include headache, dizziness, difficulty
breathing, and sometimes even a fast heartbeat. Some people even develop a
compulsion to chew ice.
5. Fatigue is a telltale symptom. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/1859x1244%2B89%2B83/resize/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F1c%2F67%2Ff3e90eab4c9784786de47a0dce9c%2Fimage-woman-resting-her-head.jpg
It’s possible you have a pretty good idea that
you’re anemic. You may have been experiencing the symptoms for some time, or
you may have a history of anemia. But your doctor will want to run a blood test
to gauge your hemoglobin levels and your iron levels. If they’re too low,
you’ll get a diagnosis of iron-deficiency anemia. Then your doctor can talk to
you about the most appropriate treatment for you.
6. You’ll need a test to be sure of your diagnosis. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/thumbnail/580x388/quality/75/?url=https%3A%2F%2Fd26ua9paks4zq.cloudfront.net%2F27%2Fdc%2F5d3f033549f2be680782b8304847%2Fimage-doctor-checking-patients-test-results.jpg
One of the first-line treatments for many people
diagnosed with iron-deficiency anemia is diet. That means it’s time to start
eating more iron-rich foods. Leafy greens like spinach, collard greens,
broccoli and kale are a great place to start. You can also turn to oysters, shellfish,
sardines, beef, lamb, and pork—including organ meats like liver. If you’re a
cereal fan, make sure you’re eating iron-fortified cereals, as well as pastas,
breads, and grains.
7. You can boost the iron in your diet. https://d33ljpvc0tflz5.cloudfront.net/dims3/MMH/crop/1500x1003%2B0%2B70/resize