Whether or not you have been diagnosed with heart disease, it’s important to know how anemia affects your health and heart. It’s all about hemoglobin…
Hemoglobin is an essential protein that carries oxygen to all your tissues and organs. And, a person is diagnosed with Anemia when their levels of hemoglobin are lower than normal.
- Anemia may also occur when you don’t have enough red blood cells. These are the cells that transport the hemoglobin throughout your body.
- In other cases, the red blood cells themselves may simply contain too little hemoglobin.
How Anemia Affects Your Health:
When someone is anemic, the body doesn’t get the oxygen it needs. If anemia is unrecognized and untreated, serious damage can occur in the organs. They can’t function without oxygen.
Chronic Conditions that increase your risk of developing anemia, such as:
- Rheumatoid arthritis or other autoimmune diseases
- Kidney disease
- Liver disease
- Thyroid disease
- Inflammatory bowel disease (Crohn disease or ulcerative colitis)
Signs And Symptoms Of Anemia
- Generalized weakness
- Difficulty catching your breath
- Chest pain or discomfort
- Fast or irregular heartbeats
- Feeling cold all the time, especially in the hands and feet
- Numbness in the hands and feet
- Pale appearance
- Persistent Irritable mood
- Problems concentrating or performing tasks
- Frequent headaches or dizziness
Keep in mind that when anemia becomes severe, the heart has to pump harder and faster to compensate for the decreased levels of oxygen in the body.
Causes Of Anemia:
While there are more than 400 types of anemia, they are all due to not having enough red blood cells or to a lack of hemoglobin.
The Anemias are divided into three groups:
- Anemia caused by blood loss.
- Anemia caused by decreased or faulty red blood cell production.
- Anemia caused by the destruction of red blood cells.
Most Common causes of Anemia include:
- Not enough iron in the blood
- An inherited blood condition
- Lack of vitamins like B-12 and folate
- Another illness (such as kidney disease or cancer, as mentioned above)
- Rapid blood loss (due to recent surgery, heavy periods, or a bleeding ulcer)
Types of Anemia
The five most common forms of anemia are:
➡ Iron-deficiency anemia
The most frequently diagnosed form of anemia, this is due to a lack of iron, which is critical for the body’s production of hemoglobin, which in turn delivers oxygen to our cells.
➡ Sickle cell anemia. This is an inherited condition in which red blood cells are misshapen, or “sickle” shaped. The abnormal shape of the red blood cells causes them to be more fragile and less effective at delivering oxygen to the tissues.
➡ Thalassemia. A genetic disorder that runs in families. In thalassemia, the body doesn’t make enough red blood cells or hemoglobin.
➡ Megaloblastic anemia. Megaloblastic red blood cells are produced when the body doesn’t get enough vitamin B12 or folate.
These red blood cells are bigger than normal cells but do not transport hemoglobin as efficiently.
➡ Hemolytic anemia. In this condition, red blood cells are rapidly removed from the bloodstream.
- Infections, medications, and diseases of the immune system can all lead to this type of anemia. Hemolytic anemia can also occur after blood transfusions.
Bottom Line: Are You At Risk?
Among the risks mentioned earlier, chronic illnesses such as Diabetes, HIV/AIDA number of risk factors increase the likelihood of developing anemia, including:
- A family history of anemia or other blood disorders
- Poor diet
- Chronic illness, including Diabetes, Cancer, HIV/AIDS, Inflammatory Bowel Disease
- Thyroid problems
- Kidney Disease
Anemia‘s Impact on Heart Health
The link between anemia and heart disease is clear:
Up to 48% of people who have had heart failure are anemic.
43% of people hospitalized for a heart attack, were found to have anemia.
People who are anemic have a 41% greater risk of having a heart attack or needing procedures to treat heart disease as compared to those without anemia.
When left untreated, anemia takes a toll on the body — particularly the heart — because oxygen levels are chronically diminished.
People who already have heart disease may actually worsen their condition if they also develop anemia because decreased oxygen places added strain on the heart.
Diagnosing, Treating, and Preventing Anemia
Several simple blood tests can be used to diagnose anemia. Your doctor will perform a complete blood count (CBC) to determine how much hemoglobin there is in your blood.
A CBC is also useful because it shows whether your other blood cell levels (white blood cells and platelets) are low. This information can help your doctor identify the source of your anemia.
Iron, vitamin B12, and folate levels are also usually checked in the process of diagnosing anemia.
If your doctor thinks that you might have an inherited form of anemia, a special test called hemoglobin electrophoresis may also be performed. This test reveals the specific types of hemoglobin in your blood and can help diagnose conditions such as sickle cell anemia and thalassemia.
Once diagnosed, treatment usually begins with:
➡ Eat foods rich in iron like spinach, lean red meats, beans, lentils, iron-fortified cereal and bread, liver, oysters, tofu, fish, and dried fruit.
➡ Get lots of vitamin C to help your body absorb iron more effectively.
➡ Skip coffee and tea with your meals since they can interfere with iron absorption.
➡ Vitamin supplements (including iron, vitamin B12, and folate)
➡ Medications designed to increase red blood cell production.
In some cases, procedures like a blood transfusion or bone marrow transplant may also be considered.
Finally, if you experience symptoms of anemia or have risk factors for anemia, talk to your doctor about getting regular screening tests to check your hemoglobin and red blood cell count.
Early diagnosis and prevention of anemia will not only help you feel better faster, but it will also improve your heart health.