“I’m Anaemic” is a statement that’s heard frequently from women all over the world. India is one of the countries with very high prevalence of anaemia. Almost 58 per cent of pregnant women in India are anaemic, 50 per cent among non-pregnant non-lactating women and 56 per cent among adolescent girls (15–19 years). It is estimated that anaemia is the underlying cause for 20–40 per cent of maternal deaths in India.
Why are so many of us anaemic?
WHO(World Health Organisation) defines anaemia as a condition in which the haemoglobin content of blood is lower than normal as a result of deficiency of one or more essential nutrients. A person is considered anaemic if their haemoglobin level is below 12mg/dl of blood.
Iron deficiency is thought to be the leading cause of anaemia in women. Poor nutrition, blood loss during menstruation, increased iron requirements during pregnancy and lactation predispose women to poor iron stores. Apart from these, worm infestations, frequent pregnancies with less than two year interval, excessive intake of “iron inhibitors” (e.g. tea, coffee) and infectious diseases like malaria, contribute to depleting iron stores in the body.
What are the signs and symptoms that you shouldn’t ignore?
The symptoms of anaemia are often vague and hence can go undetected in many people. The most common signs and symptoms are:
3)Shortness of breath or poor ability to do exercise
6)Soreness of the mouth with cracks at the corners
In cases of severe anaemia, people complain of
1)Palpitations (A sensation in which a person is aware of an irregular, hard, or rapid heartbeat)
3)Coldness of hands and feet
If you are experiencing any of these symptoms, consult your doctor and get the necessary tests done to rule out anaemia.
How does one prevent anaemia?
Green leafy vegetables like amaranth, spinach, turnip leaves, mint leaves and small amounts of tamarind added to the diet daily will together provide the amount of iron recommended.
Deficiency of vitamin B12 and folic acid also causes anaemia in women. Foods such as chicken, egg yolk, whole grains, spinach, beetroot, fish, milk, cheese and sweet potato will provide the required amount of B12 and folic acid for the body.
Pregnant women must make sure they take their folic acid and iron supplements usually prescribed to them in the first and second trimester respectively; doing so will help the mother and child meet the increased demands for these nutrients during pregnancy.
If you are losing excess amounts of blood during menstruation, consult your doctor and undergo a proper evaluation. Increased blood loss during menstruation is one of the most common causes of anaemia in women.
Deworm yourself from time to time, it is highly possible that most of us may have a roundworm or tapeworm infection. These infections not only cause anaemia but present with other complications as well. Make sure to ask your doctor to guide you through the process.
The prevalence of anaemia in women may seem astounding, but by taking the necessary measures we can surely work towards curbing the rising numbers.
Doctor by profession, ardent animal lover by choice; she finds writing to be therapeutic. She loves meeting new people, hopes to travel the world and has karaoking with Oprah on top of her bucket list. @kirtana_ponnuswamy