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H
ealth Hint #38
 

Excerpted from "A Year of Health Hints"
365 Practical Ways to Feel Better and Live Longer



If someone says you look anemic, glance at yourself in a mirror. Are you, tired, listless, and weak--and look it? Do the linings of your lower eyelids look pale? Maybe you are anemic. But what does that mean?

Strictly speaking, anemia refers to a deficiency of either red blood cells or the amount of hemoglobin (oxygen-carrying protein) in the red blood cells circulating in your blood vessels.

Iron deficiency anemia is the most common form of anemia. In the United States, 20 percent of all women of childbearing age have iron deficiency anemia (compared to 2 percent of adult men). The primary cause is blood lost during menstruation. But eating too few iron-rich foods--or not adequately absorbing iron--can compound the problem. (The recommended daily allowance for iron ranges from 6 milligrams for infants to over 30 milligrams for pregnant women. Yet one government source found that females between 12 and 50 years old--those at highest risk for iron deficiency anemia--get about half that much.) Pregnancy, breastfeeding a baby, and blood loss from the gastrointestinal tract (either due to ulcers or cancer) can also deplete iron stores,

Folic acid deficiency anemia occurs when folic acid levels are low, usually due to inadequate dietary intake or faulty absorption. The need for this vitamin more than doubles during pregnancy.

Other, less common forms of anemia include pernicious anemia (inability of the body to properly absorb vitamin B12), sickle cell anemia (an inherited disorder discussed in Tip 75 in chapter 2, Major Medical Conditions: Prevention, Detection, and Treatment), and thalassemia anemia (also inherited).

The first step in treating iron deficiency anemia is to pinpoint the cause. If it's due to a poor diet, you're in luck: Iron deficiency anemia is not only the most common form of anemia, it's the easiest to correct if it's due to being female or taking in inadequate amounts of certain foods. Folic Acid vitamin supplements may also be necessary. Your doctor may recommend that you:

Eat more food sources of iron. Concentrate on green, leafy vegetables, red meat, beef liver,
poultry, fish, wheat germ, oysters, fruit, and iron-fortified cereal.
Boost your iron absorption. (Foods high in vitamin C--like citrus fruit, tomatoes, and strawberries--
help your body absorb iron from food. And red meat not only supplies a goodly amount of iron,
it also increases absorption of iron from other food sources.)
Don't drink a lot of tea--it contains tannins, substances that can inhibit iron absorption. (Herbal tea
is okay, though.)
Take an iron supplement. (Consult your physician before taking an iron supplement and for proper
dosage.) While iron is best absorbed when taken on an empty stomach, it can upset your stomach.
Taking iron with meals is less upsetting to the stomach.

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