August 13, 2008


The significance of blood in the human body is treasured. Most people treasure this vital power of life. Perhaps the most important function of the blood is that it carries oxygen to various body cells. The remotest among all the body cells at the point of the body which you may not even be aware of also waits for the blood for major nourishment. The major entity which is responsible for this crucial function for life is hemoglobin. It is this protein complex that imparts the red color to the blood and the hemoglobin is contained in specific cells of the blood called red blood cells.

However, if the concentration of hemoglobin in the body goes down the normal values, it results in inadequate supply of oxygen and nutrients in the body. Due to this there is a general weakness in the body and results in fatigue and lowering rate in the metabolism. This is referred as anemia. There could be various cases of anemia, either from inadequate production of hemoglobin due to deficient diet or due to blood loss or due to faulty red blood cells which have a short life.

When a person is anemic, their heart has to work harder to pump the quantity of blood needed to get adequate oxygen around their body. During heavy exercise, the cells may not be able to carry enough oxygen to meet the body’s needs and the person can become exhausted.

Anemia isn’t a disease in itself, but a result of a malfunction somewhere in the body. This blood condition is common, particularly in females. Some estimates suggest that around one in five menstruating women and half of all pregnant women are anemic.

Red blood cells

Blood cells are produced in the bone marrow. You need certain nutrients in your diet to make and maintain red blood cells. These include Vitamin b12, iron, folic acid and other vital vitamins. This is supplied in form of rich diet and if these needs in diet or absorption from the digestive tract is not met, the blood results in being deficient in hemoglobin and thus oxygen too. The red blood cells are produced in bone marrow. The bone marrow needs enough dietary iron and some vitamins to manufacture hemoglobin. If you don’t have enough iron in your diet, the body will draw on the small reserves of iron stored in your liver. Once this reservoir is depleted, the red blood cells will not be able to carry oxygen around the body effectively.

Symptoms of anemia

Pale skin, fatigue, weakness, breathlessness, frequent headaches, irritability, concentration difficulties are some of the symptoms of anemia.

Anemiacan have many causes, including:

  • Dietary deficiency – lack of iron, vitamin B12 or folic acid in the diet.
  • Mal absorption– where the body is not able to use the nutrients in the diet, caused by conditions such as coeliac disease.
  • Inherited disorders – such as thalassaemia or sickle cell disease where the red blood cells are faulty.
  • Autoimmune disorders – such as autoimmune haemolytic anemia, where the immune cells attack the red blood cells and decrease their life span.
  • Chronic diseases – such as rheumatoid arthritis and tuberculosis where the cells are infected or inflamed and hence their functions are affected.
  • Hormone disorders – such as hypothyroidism.
  • Bone marrow disorders – such as cancer, infection
  • Blood loss – due to trauma, surgery, cancer, peptic ulcer, heavy menstruation, bowel cancer or frequent blood donations.
  • Drugs and medications – including alcohol, antibiotics, anti-inflammatory drugs or anti-coagulant medications.
  • Infection – such as malaria and septicemia, which reduce the life span of red blood cells.
  • Periods of rapid growth or high energy requirements – such as puberty or pregnancy.

Prevention of anemia

By taking a rich and regular diet, the complications of anaemia can be prevented. Some food items which are rich in iron are spinach, lettuce, olives, dried figs, coriander etc.

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