Iron-rich foods can help
By Doris Obinna
Anaemia refers to a decreased number of circulating red blood cells and is the most common blood disorder. Symptoms can include headaches, chest pains, and a paleness of skin.It affects an estimated 1.62 billion people, globally.
According to experts, anaemia is not strictly a disease, but a disorder. It is often a byproduct of other diseases that either interfere with the body’s ability to produce healthy red blood cells or abnormally increase red blood cell breakdown or loss.
African Health Sciences Journal states that anaemia in pregnancy is a common problem in most developing countries and a major cause of morbidity and mortality especially in malaria endemic areas. In pregnancy, anaemia has a significant impact on the health of the foetus as well as that of the mother. Twenty percent of maternal deaths in Africa have been attributed to anaemia.
It is important to remember that certain forms of anaemia are hereditary and infants may be affected from the time of birth. While, women in the childbearing years are particularly susceptible to iron-deficiency anaemia because of the blood loss from menstruation and the increased blood supply demands during pregnancy. Older adults also may have a greater risk of developing anaemia because of poor diet and other medical conditions.
Dr, Sunday Olalekan said, anaemia is diagnosed, as any condition in which there is a decreased number of circulating red blood cells.“Conditions where our body does not produce enough healthy red blood cells, destroys too many red blood cells, or loses circulating red blood cells can all lead to anaemia.
“Red blood cells are critical to our body’s wellbeing. They carry haemoglobin, a complex protein that contains iron molecules. The main function of these molecules is to carry oxygen from the lungs to the rest of the body.If there are not enough red blood cells, an individual may experience symptoms such as feeling tired or weak.
There are more than 400 types of anaemia currently known and these are divided into three main groups according to their cause: Anaemia caused by blood loss, anaemia caused by decreased production or production of faulty red blood cells, anaemia caused by the destruction of red blood cells.
He said: “There is no single cause of anaemia. Due to the great number of anaemia types, it can sometimes be difficult to pinpoint the exact cause.We can however, have a general overview of the common causes of the three main groups of anaemia. The most common type of anaemia – iron deficiency anaemia, typically falls into this category. In this case, the disorder is brought on by a shortage of iron, most often caused by blood loss.
“The blood loss can be categorized as acute and rapid or chronic. Rapid blood loss can include surgery, childbirth, trauma, or a ruptured blood vessel. Chronic blood loss is more frequent among patients diagnosed with anaemia. Here, the blood loss can be a result of stomach ulcers, cancer, or tumor. Women who undergo heavy menstrual bleeding may also be at risk of developing anaemia.
“When blood is lost, your body reacts by pulling in water from tissues outside the bloodstream in an attempt to keep the blood vessels filled. This additional water dilutes the blood, and, as a result, the red blood cells are diluted.
“The second type is anaemia, which is caused by decreased or faulty red blood cell productions. A patient’s diet can be a cause of anaemia. A lack of iron or vitamin-rich foods severely affects the body’s ability to produce enough red blood cells.”
Olalekan noted , however, that, vegetarians are particularly at risk of anaemia due to the elimination of meat, which is high iron content. However, there are other iron-rich foods like leafy greens or iron and vitamin supplements that can be incorporated into the diet.
“Located in the center of our bones is a soft, spongy tissue, called bone marrow, which is essential for the creation of red blood cells. Bone marrow produces stem cells, which develop into red blood cells, white blood cells, and platelets. Bone marrow can be affected by a number of diseases such as leukemia, where abnormal white blood cells are produced in excess, which disrupts normal production of red blood cells,” he stated.
“The third, which is caused by the destruction of red blood cells, which typically have a life span of 120 days in the bloodstream, but they can be destroyed or removed beforehand.
“One type of anaemia that falls into this category is autoimmune hemolytic anaemia, where the body’s immune system mistakenly identifies its own red blood cells as a foreign substance and attacks them. Excessive haemolysis (red blood cell breakdown) can occur due to many other medical conditions.”
However, Olalekan said the most common symptom of anaemia, regardless of type, is a feeling of fatigue and a lack of energy.
“Other common symptoms of anaemia may include: paleness of skin, fast or irregular heartbeat, shortness of breath, chest pain, headache, light-headedness. In mild cases of anemia, individuals have little to no symptoms. Some forms of anaemia can have specific symptoms unique to their type: aplastic anaemia-fever, frequent infections, and skin rashes, folic acid deficiency anaemia-irritability, diarrhea, and a smooth tongue, hemolytic anaemia-jaundice, dark colored urine, fever, and abdominal pains, sickle cell anaemia – painful swelling of the feet and hands, fatigue, and jaundice.”
A study carried out to determine the prevalence of anaemia among pregnant women receiving antenatal care in two Nigeria hospitals and a traditional birth home, shows that pregnant women who were enrolled in the study at their first antenatal visit and were monitored through pregnancy for anaemia indicated that packed cell volume (PCV) was used to assess level of anaemia.
“In all the antenatal centers, more women were anaemic in the second trimester of pregnancy. Forty-seven (9.8 percent) of the enrolled women booked for antenatal care in the first trimester, while 303(63.5 percent) booked in the second trimester and 127(26.6 percent) in the 3rd trimester of their pregnancies. 62.5 percent of these women were already anaemic at the time of antenatal booking. Absence of symptoms of ill health was the major reason for late antenatal booking. Anaemia was higher among unemployed women and those with sickle cell traits,” states the study.
To diagnose anaemia, experts say several methods can be used; the most common of which is a complete blood count (CBC), which measures number of blood components, including the patient’s haemoglobin and haematocrit levels (ratio of the volume of red blood cells to the total volume of blood).
“No special preparation is needed for this test, and only a small blood sample is required. A CBC can be an indication of a patient’s overall health and can detect other conditions, such as leukemia or kidney disease. A doctor can examine the results of a CBC and compare them with the recommended healthy levels. What constitutes a healthy level may differ depending on sex, race, and age,” an expert said.
Olalekan said: “Unfortunately, a complete blood count does not offer a definitive diagnosis of anaemia. It is possible to be outside the normal range but still be healthy. If the red blood cell, haemoglobin, and hematocrit levels are all below “normal,” then anaemia is likely. A doctor may also perform a physical exam and ask for information regarding the patient’s family medical history.
“There are a range of treatments for anaemia, all ultimately aimed at increasing the red blood cells count which in turn increases the amount of oxygen the blood carries.”
Experts, however, advised that, a change to an iron-rich diet can help alleviate the symptoms of anaemia. To do this, patients can eat more fresh vegetables like leafy greens, meats, and other recommended foods. Iron and vitamin supplements are also available, which are particularly useful for patients on a restricted diet.
“A change in diet can boost iron, vitamin B12, and folic acid levels, which all play a part in the production of healthy red blood cells. The following foods are high in iron; iron-fortified cereals and breads, pulses and beans, brown rice, white and red meats, nuts and seeds, fish, eggs, dried fruits, including apricots, raisins, and prunes.”
How to stay healthy in the new year
New Year eve is supposed to be time of celebration, togetherness, and happiness. Yet, it can bring challenges to our physical and emotional health. Here are eight tips for staying healthy and happy during this season of joy.
It’s common to pack on five to ten pounds during the holiday season, but there are ways you can eat both healthy and well! Know which foods are high in caloric content and low in nutrition. Don’t deprive yourself of such treats, but indulge in moderation. Eat smaller meals instead of “saving yourself” for one huge buffet. Opt for healthy options at home, and when visiting others, bring a healthy dish to share. Be careful of liquid calories, including alcoholic beverages.
Exercise is just as important during the holidays as any other time of the year. You should be active at least four to five times a week, preferably with some aerobic exercise every day. The weather may be cold outside, but the winter offers additional fun, too! Ice skating, sledding, snow sprints all of these can be great exercise. Enlist your loved ones to join you for quality bonding time.
Prevent illness and injuries
Colds and the flu are most prevalent in the winter. Prevent them by washing your hands regularly and urging others to do the same. Stay warm by dressing in layers. Sprinkle sand on icy patches. Watch young ones and assist the elderly, who are at increased risk of falls and other injuries during this time.
Check your heating system
Making sure your heating works and is safe. Carbon monoxide is a silent killer. Install a carbon monoxide detector and test it once a month. Keep grills and generators out of the house, and don’t run your car for long periods of time in the garage. Most residential fires also occur in the winter; never leave fireplaces, stoves, and candles unattended.
Whether you are going down the block or halfway across the world, follow extra precautions. Give yourself plenty of time in the additional holiday traffic. Never drink and drive. Be on the lookout for reports of extreme weather and heed warnings.
If you’re traveling away from home, make sure to pack and take your medications . Know how to contact your doctor when you are away and have a medical problem.
Holidays can be a stressful time. You may be working, and feel the stress of managing your work duties along with additional commitments to your friends and family. You may feel the financial stress of gifts and the interpersonal stress of conflicts. Try to anticipate sources of stress and develop a plan to manage them. This may involve committing to fewer get- togethers or setting a tighter budget. Don’t feel guilty; you have to take care of yourself before you can take of others.
Depression and suicidality increase during the holidays. Watch for signs of depression among your friends and family. Take an active role to support those in need. Invite those colleagues or friends who are alone over the holidays to spend them with you. Volunteer and give to those less fortunate.
The holiday spirit is about helping others around you, but you also have to make time to take care of yourself. So treat yourself with something over the holidays. It may be something as simple as sleep . Wake up late and enjoy a day of rest; you need it. How about reading that book you’ve been meaning to for a long time, or getting a manicure or massage? Take the time to do the things that make you happy.