Anemia is a condition in which the body does not have enough healthy red blood cells, which bring oxygen to body tissues. It is a particular concern for pregnant women, but it can affect anyone with a lack of iron, a US physician said Thursday.
“There are many types of anemia,” said Taing Tek Hong, a Florida-based doctor, as a guest on “Hello VOA.” “But today we are talking about iron-deficiency anemia.”
“You get iron through certain foods, and your body also reuses iron from old red blood cells,” he said. Iron deficiency may be caused by an iron-poor diet, the body not being able to absorb iron, long term slow blood loss, such as in menstrual periods, and rapid growth in children, when more iron is needed.
“About half of all pregnant women develop iron-deficiency anemia,” the doctor said. “The condition can increase the risk of a pregnant woman for a premature or low-birth-weight baby. Women of childbearing age are at increased risk for IDA because of blood loss during monthly periods. Pregnant women need twice as much iron as usual.”
Premature and low-birth-weight babies are at even greater risk for iron-deficiency anemia, he said. Adults who have internal bleeding, such as intestinal bleeding, can develop iron-deficiency anemia due to blood loss. Other at risk groups are people who eat poorly due to a variety of reasons.
There are usually no complications after anemia, the doctor said, but the condition can return. Regular follow-ups with a doctor can help those who have developed anemia.
“Everyone’s diet should include enough iron,” he said. “Green vegetables are important sources of iron. If you aren’t getting enough iron in your diet, take iron supplements. During periods when you need extra iron, such as pregnancy and breastfeeding, increase the amount of iron in your diet or take iron supplements.”
Very heavy menstrual bleeding, long periods, or other vaginal bleeding may suggest that a woman is at risk for iron-deficiency anemia, he said.
Iron supplements can be found in the form of ferrous sulfate, and Vitamin C can increase absorbtion of iron and is essential in the production of hemoglobin, the substance in blood that carries oxygen to the cells.