Do you know enough about anemia?

Have you ever noticed how we don’t care about a problem until it happens to us? Anemia is my new, out-of-the-blue problem, so I thought I might teach the rest of you a little bit about it.

According to the World Health Organization, anemia or iron deficiency is by far the most common and widespread nutritional disorder worldwide, with an estimated one billion people affected. Yep, it’s a public health condition of epidemic proportions. Who knew? And it is most commonly a problem in those over sixty.

Iron deficiency anemia is a common type of anemia — a condition in which blood lacks adequate healthy red blood cells. Red blood cells carry oxygen to the body’s tissues. I found out about my anemia through a standard blood test where I learned my bone marrow was not creating enough normal red blood cells, the size of them was small and therefore, the hemoglobin in my blood was not able to provide me with enough oxygen.

How do you feel when you are living with an iron deficiency? According to the Mayo Clinic, iron deficiency anemia symptoms may include:

  • Extreme fatigue
  • Weakness
  • Pale skin
  • Chest pain, fast heartbeat or shortness of breath
  • Headache, dizziness or lightheadedness
  • Cold hands and feet
  • Inflammation or soreness of your tongue
  • Brittle nails & hair loss
  • Unusual cravings for non-nutritive substances, such as ice, dirt or starch
  • Poor appetite, especially in infants and children with iron deficiency anemia

Imagine my surprise when I discovered my recent strong desire to chew ice constantly was an symptom of a major problem! Still no desire to eat dirt, but this might go a long way towards explaining my daily struggles to breathe!

So now I’m busy figuring out what foods have lots of iron, foods like beef and pork, shellfish, dried fruit, fortified breakfast cereals, beans, leafy greens and, my favorite, dark chocolate!

In my case I also began taking a 65 mg iron supplement. Thought I might warn the rest of you boomers, because I was pretty surprised. Now I wonder how I got through my whole life without knowing one thing about this… OH, is that what those Geritol commercials from the 1950s were all about?

WARNING: Be certain to see your doctor for a diagnosis rather than taking iron supplements on your own. Overloading the body with iron can be dangerous because excess iron accumulation can damage your liver and cause other complications.

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