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How Do You Balance haemoglobin Levels?

Team Pathkind 388 Views
Updated: 05 Feb 2024
Published: 05 Feb 2024

Haemoglobin is a protein found in red blood cells (RBCs). This protein is essential in transporting oxygen from the lungs and circulating it to the rest of the body's tissues and organs. Red blood cells are red in colour because of the pigment, haemoglobin, present in them.

It is imperative to keep the haemoglobin levels at a normal range; otherwise, it can lead to extreme health conditions and chronic diseases. Even though it takes a long time to reach normal haemoglobin levels for some, it is unavoidable to make the change.

What are the normal haemoglobin levels?

The normal range of haemoglobin count:-

Age Group
Haemoglobin Range (g/dL)
Newborn
14-24
0-2 weeks
12-20
2-6 months
10-17
6 months - 1 year
9.5-14
1-6 years
9.5-14
6-18 years
10-15.5
Adult Men
14-18
Adult Women
12-16
Older Adults
Slight decrease
Pregnant Women
Less than 11

To understand whether the normal haemoglobin range is maintained, one must have routine checkups, including the CBC - complete blood count test done. This will help examine the different ranges of blood components, including haemoglobin. Especially for pregnant women, regular checkups for CBC or haemoglobin must be conducted because there is an increase in demand for iron and other nutrients during this period; it is very common for pregnant women to be diagnosed with anaemia.

Acquiring low haemoglobin levels is relatively more common than possessing high haemoglobin levels. Polycythaemia is the term for this condition; it refers to the increase in red blood cell mass, which reflects the increase in haemoglobin levels. There are various causes for high haemoglobin levels. Dehydration is one of them; when the body loses fluids, the concentration of RBCs in the blood increases, which leads to higher haemoglobin levels; this is often seen in severe dehydration. Smoking can also cause an increase in haemoglobin levels due to the higher concentration of carbon monoxide in the blood, which stimulates the production of red blood cells. Some lung diseases, such as chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, pulmonary fibrosis, and some specific heart diseases, can lead to inadequate oxygen supply, which triggers the production of red blood cells (in turn, increasing the haemoglobin levels). Bone marrow disorders like polycythaemia vera can lead to the overproduction of red blood cells and elevate haemoglobin levels. Living at high altitudes with decreased oxygen levels can also increase the levels in response to the body's attempt to circulate more oxygen throughout the body. Some genetic conditions like congenital erythrocytosis also lead to the overproduction of red blood cells and, simultaneously, haemoglobin.

Low haemoglobin levels, also known as anaemia, can be caused by various factors. Iron deficiency anaemia, which is the most common type of anaemia, is caused when the body does not have enough iron to produce sufficient haemoglobin. Anaemia is a medical blood disorder in which the red blood cells reduce in number, or there is a decrease in the blood's haemoglobin. As mentioned before, haemoglobin is a protein in red blood cells that binds with oxygen and circulates it throughout the body. Anaemia leads to the decreased ability of the blood to carry oxygen; if the oxygen is not carried around the body effectively and efficiently, symptoms such as fatigue, shortness of breath and weakness may arise. A lack of vitamin B12 and an insufficient intake of folic acid (a B vitamin) can result in anaemia. Some chronic conditions, for example, chronic kidney disease, inflammatory disorders, and autoimmune diseases, can impact the production of red blood cells, further leading to anaemia. Haemolytic anaemia is a disorder where the red blood cells are destroyed faster than the body replaces them with new red blood cells, which results in anaemia. Acute blood loss, chronic blood loss, chronic infections, hemoglobinopathies (a genetic disorder that affects haemoglobin structure), bone marrow disorders, malnutrition (inadequate intake of essential nutrients like iron and vitamins), changes in stomach lining or intestines (affects how well nutrients are absorbed), surgeries that remove parts of the stomach or intestines, and certain medications can all lead to anaemia and low haemoglobin levels.

How do I know if I have high haemoglobin?

  • Fatigue, weakness (oxygen delivery to tissues can still be compromised)
  • Easy bruising or bleeding
  • Dizziness, headaches (due to increased blood viscosity)
  • Excessive sweating (hyperhidrosis)
  • Joint swelling
  • Unexplained weight loss
  • Yellowish eyes or skin (adult jaundice)
  • Blurry or double vision (resulting from increased pressure on the eyes)
  • Itchy/flushed skin (reddish appearance and a sensation of itching) 
  • Shortness of breath (because of reduced oxygen-carrying capacity)
  • Enlarged spleen or liver (swelling or discomfort in the abdomen)

How do I know if I have low haemoglobin?

  • Irritability
  • Loss of appetite
  • Tingling, numbness of hands and feet
  • Problems in thinking or concentrating
  • Headaches
  • Tiredness, weakness
  • Blue colour to the whites of the eyes
  • Brittle nails
  • Pica syndrome
  • Paleness of skin (especially noticeable in the face, lips and inner eyelids)
  • Light-headedness, feeling faint/dizzy when standing up
  • Shortness of breath
  • Mouth ulcers, sore or inflamed tongue
  • Abnormal or increased menstrual bleeding
  • Cold hands and feet (poor circulation)

Foods that can help prevent low haemoglobin levels:

Vitamin C-rich foods:

  • Citrus fruits (oranges, grapefruits, lemons)
  • Berries (strawberries, blueberries, raspberries)
  • Kiwi
  • Bell peppers
  • Tomatoes

Iron-rich foods:

  • Lean meats (beef, pork, poultry)
  • Fish (especially tuna salmon)
  • Shellfish (shrimp, clams)
  • Legumes (beans, lentils)
  • Tofu and soy products
  • Nuts and seeds (especially pumpkin seeds)
  • Dark green, leafy vegetables (spinach, kale)

Folate-rich foods:

  • Leafy greens (spinach, kale)
  • Fortified cereals
  • Lentils
  • Chickpeas
  • Avocado

Foods that may contribute low haemoglobin (they may hinder iron absorption):

Calcium-rich foods:

  • Dairy products (milk, cheese, yoghurt)
  • Fortified plant-based milk (soy milk, almond milk)
  • Leafy greens (while they contain iron, the calcium can interfere with absorption)

Tannin-containing foods:

  • Tea
  • Coffee
  • Red wine

Phytate-containing foods:

  • Whole grains
  • Legumes
  • Nuts and seeds

Foods that can help prevent high haemoglobin levels (avoid excessive intake of these substances):

  • Iron supplements (Taking iron supplements without a medical need can lead to excessive iron levels)
  • Red meat and high-iron foods (Consuming vast amounts of red meat and iron-rich foods may contribute to elevated iron levels)

Diagnosis:

It is important to consult a doctor if you experience any of the symptoms above for a long time. There are two tests that one can take to understand their haemoglobin count:

  • Complete Blood Count (CBC)<test: The CBC checks for diseases that can impact one's health as it identifies any changes in the blood cell counts depending on age and gender. The doctor will be able to examine your general health and determine if there are any illnesses based on your blood cell levels. The CBC test measures the platelets and red and white blood cells.
  • Haemoglobin (Hb)test: The amount of haemoglobin in the blood can be measured by the Hb- haemoglobin test. This helps the doctor diagnose the patient with specific blood-related illnesses and understand the underlying cause of an illness.

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