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Could I Have Anemia?

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Anemia is a condition that affects millions of Americans. The condition is usually identified by general weakness and fatigue. Reversing the condition will boost energy and overall health. Read on to learn more about anemia and how you can determine if you are anemic.

According to the U.S. Department of Health, over three million Americans have mild to severe anemia due to lack of iron in the blood. Although certain forms of anemia are life-threatening, most cases are generally mild. However, just because you have few visible symptoms of anemia does not mean you are not suffering side effects.

If you are suffering from any of the following unexplained symptoms, you might be suffering from anemia.

Common Types of Anemia

Anemia can be caused by a variety of factors, including cancer and ulcers, but anemia is usually caused by one of three sources: low iron, low vitamin intake, or pregnancy. Women are also more likely to suffer from anemia if they have menstrual problems, such as particularly heavy periods. Anemia is diagnosed when hemoglobin levels fall below 14 grams per deciliter for men and 12 grams per deciliter for women.

However, if you have not had a blood test recently, you may be suffering from anemia without knowing it. If you suffer from any of the following symptoms of anemia, you may want to check your hemoglobin levels to determine if you have anemia. Your doctor can perform a simple blood test that will not only determine if you have anemia, but it will also check if you are lacking in any other vital nutrients that can contribute to anemia or other health conditions.

According to the Center for Disease Control, the most common form of anemia is iron deficiency, followed by vitamin B deficiency.

Symptoms of Anemia 
  • Dizziness
  • Concentration problems
  • Rapid heart beat after exertion
  • Fatigue
  • Pale skin
  • Insomnia
  • Leg cramps
  • Headache after exercise
  • Clumsiness
  • Shortness of breath
  • Tingling in the hands and feet
  • Frequent bruising
  • Irritability
  • Ringing in ears
  • Anxiety
  • Hair loss
  • Restless leg syndrome
  • Dark stools
  • Heavy periods
  • Strange cravings
  • Cold extremities

Symptoms for Anemia 

If you suffer from any of the following symptoms, you just might have anemia. 

Dizziness

Dizziness is a specific word for a broad range of symptoms. Dizziness can include vertigo, spinning, light-headedness, and seeing stars or spots. Frequent dizziness, particularly after a sudden change in position (such as standing up quickly), could indicate that you are low in iron. The dizzy feeling is caused by temporary lack of oxygen to the brain, which could mean there is not enough iron in your blood that can carry oxygen to your brain fast enough.

Concentration Problems

Problems concentrating are more than just a sign of old age. If you aren't old enough for "senior moments" it could be a sign of anemia instead. Classic hallmarks of anemia-related concentration are "foggy" brain, concentration problems, and trouble remembering things. If you have several symptoms of anemia, it is likely your concentration problems are anemia-related.

Rapid Heartbeat after Exertion

If your heart races after seemingly mild exertion, that could be a sign of anemia. Anemia is often caused by a lack of iron in the blood, which makes it difficult for oxygen to reach your brain and heart in response to exercise. This will cause a faster heartbeat, stars, and sightedness during or after exercise. In extreme cases, even fainting could occur.

Fatigue

Constantly tired? Always feel the afternoon slump? It could be because of anemia. Most Americans do not get enough sleep, but if you sleep at least seven hours a night but still feel tired, anemia could be behind your symptoms.

Pale Skin

Is your skin unnaturally pale? Even if you have naturally darker skin, anemia will make your skin look paler, as if your blood is a lighter color. Your face will look closer to how dead bodies are depicted on TV. Even if you get tanned or sunburned, the underlying paleness lingers. Pale skin is a classic sign of anemia.

Insomnia

Do you have trouble sleeping at night even though you are tired during the afternoon? You might just have anemia. Chronic insomnia can also be a symptom of a lack of iron in the blood. Leg cramps If you suffer from frequent leg cramps, usually it is either dehydration or anemia that is the cause. If you cannot figure out why you always get leg cramps, it could be caused by anemia.

Headache after Exercise

Anemia comes with many symptoms, some of which are more unexpected than others. If you find your head aching after exercise, it could be a clear sign that you are lacking in iron and other nutrients that prevent anemia.

Clumsiness

Are you always running into walls and doorways and tripping over your own feet? You might not just be bad at walking, but rather, low in the nutrients that your body needs to stay healthy. One often-ignored symptom of anemia is clumsiness.

Shortness of Breath

Can't catch your breath? It is likely that you are not getting the oxygen you need. If you have no history of breathing problems or asthma, it is likely you are anemic. You run out of breath much faster if you do not get the oxygen you need to your brain and heart during exercise.

Tingling in the Hands and Feet

If your hands and feet tingle regularly, or feel numb often, it could be caused by anemia. This indicates that oxygen is not traveling as efficiently as it ought to to your extremities. If your hands and feet are always cold, you may also be anemic.

Frequent Bruising

If you get a bruise every time you so much as touch a hard surface, anemia could be a cause. Many blood disorders come with bruising as a side effect, but if you are otherwise healthy, easy bruising is a clear sign you should up your iron intake.

Irritability

Are you always cranky? Yet again, easy irritability can be a sign of too little iron in your diet.

Ringing in Ears

Frequent ringing in the ears can be a sign that you are anemic. Upping your nutrient intake should reduce or reverse this symptom.

Anxiety

If you are not normally an anxious person, but suddenly find yourself worrying about everything, it could be a symptom of anemia. A lack of nutrients can bring out a variety of brain-related symptoms.

Hair Loss

The American Academy of Dermatology states that hair loss can be a sign of anemia and other nutrient deficiencies. If you suddenly find yourself losing more hair than usual and have other symptoms of anemia, it is likely that your hair loss is related to a vitamin deficiency.

Restless Leg Syndrome

Restless Leg Syndrome is linked with several vitamin deficiencies, including the same deficiencies that cause anemia. According to John Hopkins University, about 15 percent of individuals with Restless Leg Syndrome have anemia.

Dark Stools

If your stools are dark, tar-like, or have blood in them, it could be a symptom of anemia. When your body does not use iron properly, it can exit through the intestines, turning stools an unusual color. Any significant stool change should be discussed with a doctor, but dark stools are often a sign of anemia-related conditions.

Heavy Periods

Women with anemia often have heavier periods than women without the condition. The combination of low iron and uterine fibroids or polyps cause the heaviest periods. In some cases, upping iron and nutrient intake can make periods more manageable. If your heavy periods continue even after your anemia is gone, there could be something else causing the issue.

Strange Cravings

Many individuals with low iron have a craving for ice. These individuals often suck on or chew ice. Other individuals with anemia have reported cravings for paper and clay, or other mineral-heavy foods. Researchers hypothesize that perhaps the cold of the ice gives the brain a mental boost, clearing some of the brain fog associated with anemia.

How to Fight Anemia

Iron-related anemia is by far the most common cause of anemia, although a deficiency in zinc is also tied to anemia. If you suspect anemia, ask your doctor for a blood test to determine if you are truly low in iron. The blood test is necessary to prevent the over-dosing of iron, which is dangerous. A blood test can also pinpoint exactly what is missing from your nutrient profile, making it easier to make informed choices about your health. If you do get a diagnosis of anemia, follow these steps to boost your nutrient intake and reverse anemia:

Eat More Iron

Many foods are high in iron, including red meat, oysters, beans, leafy greens, dried fruit, and liver. Add more of these foods to your diet to boost your natural consumption of iron. Try to add iron to every meal. For example, at breakfast you could eat iron-fortified oatmeal and fruit. For supper, you could eat a leafy green salad with beef. For supper, you could eat oysters or beans. It isn't incredibly difficult to add more iron to your diet naturally, but it does take some planning. Combine your iron-rich diet with supporting foods, including foods high in vitamin C and zinc for maximum benefit and nutrient absorption.

Fight Anemia with Supplements

In many cases, it is helpful to supplement with the nutrients you are missing until your body regulates. Some people also require higher doses of nutrients than suggested by the USDA, sometimes many times higher. Your doctor can help you determine what vitamins you need to maintain optimal levels, but the following supplements have been shown in studies to fight anemia: Iron Iron deficient anemia is by far the most common. If you suspect anemia, the first test your doctor will perform is an iron test. Supplementing with iron can go a long way toward easing the symptoms of anemia, although overdosing with iron carries its own risks. It is best to work directly with a doctor to determine your optimal iron intake.

Zinc: Many studies have found that zinc deficiencies can also trigger anemia. Zinc is necessary to carry oxygen throughout the body and transport red blood cells. Zinc and iron work together to prevent anemia. When iron is taken, zinc should also always be taken.

Vitamin B12: Vitamin B12 is a vitamin that boosts energy and boosts the absorption of other vitamins. Studies have found that when vitamin B12 is given to patients with anemia, their symptoms improve in as little as one month. Supplementing with vitamin B9 also helped reverse anemia.

Selenium: Selenium deficiencies have been linked with anemia in multiple studies. Children who have anemia are also typically low in selenium. Researchers hypothesize that selenium, iron, and zinc work together to balance oxygen levels in the brain and body.

Copper: When zinc is taken as a supplement, copper is also necessary. Supplementing with zinc can cause copper levels to drop too low, which is why copper should always be taken in conjunction with zinc.

Vitamin C: Vitamin C boosts the absorption of other nutrients in the body, particularly iron. When vitamin C and iron are delivered together, the efficiency of iron is increased. Vitamin C also improves heart health, increases blood flow, and fights inflammation that causes heart problems.

Anemia is Common

Over three million Americans have mild to severe anemia. While anemia is not life-threatening in most cases, it can interfere with your quality of life and make you less productive, more tired, and less able to participate in your own life. If you suspect anemia, have your doctor administer a blood test to find out once and for all if you have the condition. After diagnosis, follow the steps outlined above to reverse your anemia and get your energy back.

Next Article: Home Remedies to Treat Anemia