Fighting Anaemia

HARARE - Nutritional deficiency can result in common types of anaemia preventing the body from building healthy red blood cells, health analysts have said.

According to Medicineplus.com, Anaemia often results in a lower-than-normal level of red blood cells due to a deficiency in iron.

Without iron, the body struggles to make haemoglobin, a protein that transports oxygen from the lungs to circulate in the body.

This disease may stem from cancer, pregnancy, excessive menstrual periods or lack of vitamin B9 (folic acid).

Anaemia, which is confirmed via a blood test, has a wide range of symptoms.

This disease becomes more severe if left untreated and severe anaemia may result in death, according to the website.

A local doctor, Fungai Chimase, said the signs and symptoms of anaemia are usually gradual and begin with feeling “overtired and listless”.

“Generally, if the symptoms are severe, anaemia has progressed to a more serious condition. Some of the more advanced signs of anaemia resemble those of a heart attack and may require emergency attention,” he said.

“Symptoms of anaemia include fatigue, pale skin on the face, in the mouth and under fingernails, shortness of breath for no apparent reason and rapid heartbeat. Pica, a condition where cravings occur for unusual and often non-food substances such as dirt, paint and paper, is sometimes a symptom of iron-deficiency anaemia,” he said.

Chimase said the clinical signs of anaemia that show up in blood tests include low levels of haemoglobin in blood and low percentage of red blood cells in one’s plasma which is called hematocrit.

“In men, anemia is present when hemoglobin is less than 13 grams/dL or hematocrit is less than 39 percent.

 For non-pregnant women, anaemia is indicated when haemoglobin falls below 12 g/dL orhematocrit is less than 36 percent,” said the local doctor.

“The body cannot make enough red blood cells if it lacks the right tools, which include certain nutrients in the diet such as iron, folic acid and vitamin B12.

Lacking any of these nutrients, a patient may begin to see and feel signs of anemia.”

He said a reduced number of healthy blood cells meant less oxygen being delivered throughout the body.
 
This lack of oxygen eventually leads to symptoms of fatigue, weakness and, sometimes, mental confusion.

“A diminished supply of haemoglobin or red blood cells causes the heart to pump harder to try to get enough blood circulating throughout the body in order to deliver enough oxygen to all body cells.

The first signs that anaemia is affecting the heart may be cold hands and feet, breathlessness, chest pain and irregular heartbeat.

Untreated symptoms of anaemia can result in blood oxygen levels that are low enough to trigger a heart attack,” said Chimase.

He advised people to look out for cardiac irregularities, dizziness, diminished cognitive skills and trouble breathing.

“Tinnitus, or hearing ringing in the ears, may be a sign of anemia. It is unknown exactly why tinnitus occurs with anaemia, but a link between the two disorders has been shown, according to research,” said Chimase.

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