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Anaemia means having a red blood cell (RBC) count that is lower than normal, and it is very common among senior citizens. And anaemia becomes even more common as people get older. But many older adults and families hardly understand anemia.

Anemia is associated with a dizzying array of underlying health conditions, and can represent anything from a life-threatening emergency to a mild chronic problem that barely makes the primary care doctor blink. Misunderstanding anaemia can also lead to unnecessary worrying, or perhaps even inappropriate treatment with iron supplements. Since anaemia is often caused by some other problems in the body, not understanding anaemia often means that people don’t understand something else that is important regarding their health.

Anaemia means having a lower-than-normal count of red blood cells circulating in the blood. To detect anaemia clinicians rely on the haemoglobin level. A “normal” level of haemoglobin is usually in the range of 14-17gm/dL for men, and 12-15gm/dL for women. However, different laboratories may define the normal range slightly differently. The red blood cells in our blood use haemoglobin to carry oxygen from your lungs to every cell in your body. So when a person doesn’t have enough properly functioning red blood cells, the body begins to experience symptoms related to not having enough oxygen.

Common symptoms of anaemia are:

  1. fatigue

  2. weakness

  3. shortness of breath

  4. high heart rate

  5. headaches

  6. becoming paler, which is often first seen by checking inside the lower lids

  7. lower blood pressure (especially if the anaemia is caused by bleeding)

Common specific causes include:

  1. Chemotherapy or other medication

  2. Iron deficiency

  3. Lack of vitamins needed for red blood cells.

  4. Low levels of erythropoietin.

  5. Chronic inflammation.

  6. Bone marrow disorders

RBC count can be increased by introducing red meat & liver, dark, leafy, green vegetables, such as spinach, dried fruits, such as prunes and raisins, beans, legumes and egg yolks.

(Note: This article has drawn inputs from Leslie Kernisan’s blog on Better Health While Ageing)

This week’s blog is based on an article recently published in The Economic Times. She elaborated in great details on what happens when sugar intake in the diet is reduced and also on taking steps for reducing sugar consumption.

Studies have shown that when one stops consuming sugar it may have similar effects on our bodies akin to persons getting off drugs. Withdrawal symptoms such as headaches, exhaustion, brain fog, irritability, etc. are observed. Some people even experience digestive issues. However, with time, our bodies adapt to it. In the body processes, nothing really changes. It continues to burn calories for energy but there are fewer extra calories to store as fat since sugar is one of the main sources of calories.

According to Dr. SK Mundhra, HOD, Internal Medicine Saroj Super Speciality Hospital, New Delhi, there can be many reasons for increased sugar intake. "It is important to understand the sources of sugar intake along with the lifestyle habits that resort to increasing blood sugar levels. While not only eating sweets add to an increase in sugar levels but also poor exercise habits, a sedentary lifestyle also act as catalysts. Bingeing on alcohol, not exercising, poor eating habits, sugar in tea, or coffee all contribute to high blood sugar levels gradually." She also shared some tips to reduce sugar intake and keep weight, blood sugar levels in check.

1) Mindful Eating - Keeping a check on the quantity helps in enjoying the delicacies with moderate piling of calories. Always use a smaller plate while dining. Be mindful of what to eat and how much to eat.

2) Follow diet plan - Having a heavy breakfast helps to keep the stomach fuller for a longer time. Plan breakfast to be heaviest with lots of fibre and nutrients, and lunch packed with proteins. Try avoiding high carb foods during the daytime like bread, potatoes, sauces, white rice, etc. Keep the kitchen and fridge full of healthy snacking options, green leafy vegetables and fruits.

3) Consume plenty of water – Eliminate sugary drinks, such as soda, packed juices and replace them with water. It is advised to drink plenty of water every day (optimal level). Start the day by drinking 1 lt. water on an empty stomach to clean the digestive tract. This helps in staying hydrated and cleans toxins from the blood. Make sure to consume at least 3 lt. of water on average per day.

4) Choose from the wisest– Choose to eat a healthier option.It is perfectly okay to choose nuts, fruits, flavoured yogurts in the desserts.

5) Detoxification Technique - Try detoxing body by replacing tea and coffee with green tea. Start the day with a glass of lukewarm water and a dash of lemon in it. Try avoiding binge drinking. Better to opt for red wine instead of scotch, vodka etc.

In this Issue, we shall deliberate on ‘why’ and ‘how’ of protein intake by the senior citizens. This article is prompted by the frequent queries we receive from our members who after having undergone bi-annual medical check-up are often found wanting in protein intake.

Why is protein important?

Protein is essential for healing, building and repairing cells and body tissue resulting in:

  • healing from injuries

  • keeping fluid levels in balance

  • recovering from surgery, or illness

  • maintaining healthy vision and

  • balancing hormones and digestive enzymes

Without protein our body starts to break down muscle mass and bone strength. Seniors are not able to use protein as easily as younger people, so their bodies may need more protein to meet its needs. As we age, it is normal to lose muscle mass but the loss of strength can also cause one to fall. Strong bones and muscles allow one to get out of a chair, walk to the para’r dokan, or even play with grandchildren. Even simple tasks like flowering plants and performing daily puja at home are made easier by healthy and strong muscles.

How should seniors consume protein?

Seniors can start taking protein as part of breakfast, lunch and dinner through:

  • machh, eggs and chicken

  • nuts, seeds, cereals and beans

  • If seniors find it difficult to chew, protein drinks for the elderly made of soy can be given.

  • Dining may include milk, yogurt or doi as part of a meal plan for seniors.

We hope our readers will find this short article beneficial unlike the previous one which was a bit serious stuff.

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