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Why is knowledge on anemia is important for senior citizens?

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)


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